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Four years on, what do we think of Cameron’s leadership?

Posted on 6 December 2009 | 1:12pm

Today is the fourth anniversary of David Cameron’s election as Leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party.

I think we should all just have a moment’s reflection, and ask ourselves what we consider to be the most telling moment, thought, image or (honestly, come on, let’s try) ‘policy’ of those four years.

For me, I am still struck by some of his early environmental image work … the wind turbine on the Notting Hill roof, the cycling to work (albeit weakened by the gas-guzzler following on behind), the brief flirtation with ‘vote blue, get green’ and above all that great picture of him all bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked at the Arctic Circle on a sled pulled by huskies.

I am now however even more struck by the paucity of environmental policy and the thin-ness of environmental voice that he lends to the debate in advance of what could be one of the most important events of his political lifetime, namely the Copenhagen Summit on climate change.

The contrast between huskies back then, and near silence now, does lead one to the conclusion that there is something to the charge that he is more worried about pictures than he is about policy and substance.

I was talking to someone the other day who is on the fringes of the Tory strategic debate (he works for one of the pollsters the Tories use) who said that Cameron’s current strategy was to make a bit of noise every now and then but a lot of the time to keep his head down.

His health and safety speech would fit in the ‘make a bit of noise every now and then’ category. His lack of a big message pre-Copenhagen or pre-Pre Budget Report falls into the ‘head down’ side of the ledger.

It suggests he really does believe governments lose elections, rather than that oppositions win them. But while it is true that back in 1997 we were helped by the Tories, and might have won whatever we did, I doubt it, and I am sure the size of the majority was down as much to what we did as to anything the Tories did.

Indeed, when you look at the scale of change led by Tony Blair in his three years as Opposition Leader, and the extent to which we dominated the political debate as the Party went through a major process of change to policy, Constitution and pretty much everything else, Cameron’s four years of leadership seem pale and inactive by comparison.

The notion that as we enter an election year the Leader of the Opposition should opt to coast, and keep his head down, is bizarre. But it is to some extent confirmed by the approach to his team, something Andrew Rawnsley writes about in his Observer column today. Cameron is deemed by the Tory image-makers to be just about palatable to the public, WIlliam Hague and Ken Clarke are already well-known public figures from their previous incarnations, George Osborne is bound to have a profile as shadow chancellor. But apart from them, every single one of the shadow cabinet could walk down any street in the UK pretty much unerecognised and unmolested. It is pretty odd to think they could within a matter of months be running every department in Whitehall.

Enough from me though … what do you see as the thus far abiding image, comment, observation or policy?

  • @empatt

    The black and white Cameron family portrait before the death of his son. He knows suffering.

  • Brian Moylan

    Policy? You must be having a laugh.
    Well they have one, inheritance tax cut.
    I think the rejection of fiscal stimulus has to be the wrong call of the decade.
    Even the IMF back the approach, and they are usually the ultimate “good housekeepers”.
    Comment: “Trust me, I’m call me Dave”.

  • Mal Kelly

    His speech without notes to bear Davis. Inheritance tax

  • Cassie Pearse

    Telling Tony Blair he was the future once. First sign of arrogance. Plenty more since

  • Jack Kemp

    He is a hologram. I have been racking my brains for things he has said and done … they don’t stick.

  • Jerry Lightbown

    His Europe policy – it is scarey and stupid.

  • Jonathan Tee

    i have noticed he does something odd with his left hand when he is under pressure. I’ve noticed he doesn’t like being challenged. I noticed last week he does not being reminded he is a Tory toff

  • Billy Bullingdon

    Got to be the Bullingdon picture

  • olli issakainen

    David Cameron started well with his mixture of environmentalism and social liberalism. He is more popular now than his own party which is in the lead in the polls. So far so good.
    Many people in Britain want change. They do not like GB and Labour but are also wary of the alternative. David Cameron has not been able to come up with attractive policies. He has not been able to assure the voters that he is the right man to lead Britain. In fact, the Tories lost the plot when the economic crisis began and have not recovered since.

  • wyrdtimes

    It’s great that Labour are talking about Cameron’s class. It greatly increases the chance of the Tories playing their ace – England.

    It’s about time the Tories reminded McBroon that he has no mandate to vote on English issues. Issues that don’t even affect his own constituents. While they’re at it they should also mention Scotland’s extra funding and it’s affects – free higher education, free care for the elderly, cheaper prescriptions, no road tolls etc etc etc.

    Then we’ll see Brown squirm.

  • neal

    his furrowed brow when pressed by andrew marr the other sunday …he turned purple at one point and i thought he was going to burst.. it wouldn’t take a lot of scrutiny to unravel him.

  • Jo Roddis

    got to be hug a hoodie

  • Tribal is Annoying

    ‘What do we think of Cameron’s leadership’ Love him or hate him…about a billion times more effective than Gordon Brown or Nick Clegg.

  • Rory

    ‘The heir to Blair.’ An accurate comment in my view.

  • Alan Quinn

    Image; rattled at PMQs last week.

    Comment; several comments on “social legislation”.

    Observation; he is a lightweight politician.

    Policy; Inheritance tax.

  • Kath Chibah

    Obama’s alleged assessment of Cameron seems absolutely accurate: ‘What a lightweight’

  • pam

    Bullingdon. PR. Pink cheeks. Dodgy Euro buddies.

  • betty curtis


    Cameron’s actions ie his cronies in Europe & then his rant about these two Muslim schools being run by Terrorists & getting financed by our Government–He carried this out without any facts—His loose talk & behaviour is dangerous & as well as talking our Country down continuously he could insight a backlash from Muslim’s against our Country

    It was hysterical watching “Dave” having his photo shoot above the Military training ground with gun shots going off(No safety dress in view)& him trying to do an interview with Sopal on Politics show! It looks like the BBC were struggling to get a guest nearer to home to appear & allowed Nick Robinson & Camera men (they are the only Press with Cameron) to work for their money(Our licence fee) & do this ridiculous interview with Cameron.
    I suggest Cameron uses the footage in his election campaign.
    Who in their right mind could ever take this man seriously in being elected PM?

    Definitely no class war. Dave & Osborne have nothing we could be envious of only more evident than ever they must have spent the majority of their days(As GB says) thinking up their ideas on “THE PLAYING FIELDS OF EATON”
    It’s obvious they missed classes & concentrated on how they could be elected by using their Mega Bucks & Affluent Friends & Royalty connections


  • Ed

    “a billion times more effective than Brown or Clegg”

    Effective at what? Honest question.

  • Span Ows

    I think there is a lot of truth in what you say Alastair, however please remember that “the size of the majority was down as much to what we did as to anything the Tories did”, indeed, but you still polled less than John Major did in 1992.

    “Cameron’s four years of leadership seem pale and inactive by comparison.”

    Again, probaly true but DC hasn’t had to fundamentally change his party, just retune it. Labour needed (and had) a full engine rebuild with new (Conservative territory) technology. To put it another way, Tony and Co abandoned the Labour Party’s core vote and won over the centre ground, nothing else.