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Why Sir Trevor did no favours for Cameron

Posted on 16 March 2010 | 10:03am

If I say ‘Gordon Brown/Piers Morgan interview’ the chances are it will trigger some kind of response, that a memory either of the event or of the coverage will come to mind.

It showed a more human side to GB than is normally on display, and therefore came as something of a surprise to people.

It took place some weeks ago. David Cameron’s ITV profile by Sir Trevor McDonald was broadcast less than two days ago, and yet this morning Fiona pointed out she could remember next to nothing about it.

The pre-screening hype focused mainly on DC’s wife Samantha, who was perfectly nice and said nice things about him as you would expect. But it is true you’d be hard pressed to say there were memorable moments. True also that despite the build-up, only 1.6 million tuned in, fewer than half the audience for GB/Piers.

I thought Cameron handled himself quite well with people, like the ones at the railway station ribbing him about expenses. But as I reflected on Fiona’s observation, I realised the problem was Cameron really does avoid talking about substance. He loves to talk process – ‘this is where George sits … Here is Katie, she does the diary … I like to run round there … I like to get home to my own bed at night.’ That kind of thing is inevitable in the style of programme this was, but for a full hour’s transmission, he should have insisted that he was able to talk at least in part about policy and substance.

I hear he was recently asked at a newspaper editorial board why he wanted to be PM, and he said ‘because I think I would be good at it.’ It is an answer, in common with the impression of the programme, that suggests politics and his political career are all about him, not the people he hopes will elect him. Say what you like about Gordon Brown, but nobody could claim he is not driven by big issues and big causes.

Cameon looked energetic and lively on the news last night as he addressed a group of young people, but there seemed nonetheless quite a disconnect between him and them, and not just the one who was shouting at him about being ‘the new boy.’ His immediate response was to shout that ‘this is the kind of campaigning you’re going to get from me, open meetings, live debate’ – in other words, another campaign process point, when he could have engaged on policy in a way to suggest relative inexperience was not the problem the young man felt it to be.

He is perfectly good at the process stuff. But his constant reference to it suggests a real weakness, which I think will become more apparent as the pressure mounts.

GB on Piers worked for GB because it showed a side of Gordon seen all too rarely. I think the problem for DC on Trevor is that it showed a side of him we have already seen too much. Rather than addressing his weakness – lack of substance – it exacerbated it.

* Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.

  • @jlocke13

    And your point is?

  • Mary Lockhart

    Spot on. Which is why the only Tories to whom I can be bothered to listen are the old lot – Ken Clarke, Ann Widdicombe, Michael Howard, even Norman Tebbit. They talk politics. Obnoxious, offensive, hateful politics that raise the hackles, and galvanise the political will. Gordon Brown seems to have a similar effect on the Tories. Great!

  • Charlie

    AC. Try as you might, you will never make the “psychologically flawed” sow’s-ear that is Gordon Brown into a silk purse.

    Compare and contrast Brown’s Politics Show Q&A trainsmash on Sunday with Cameron’s shirtsleeved in-the-round performance in Lewisham. He was even heckled by an obvious plant but dealt with it in a relaxed manner that Brown can only dream of.

    Brown must be very difficult for a tribal professional such as yourself to work with; Like trying to pull a Rogue-Elephant up a mountain by its tail.

    How you must yearn for the old days when you had better material to work with.

  • Kate Harper

    Watched the TrevCam show last night and agree it was pretty superficial. My worry is that is what people like, that politics is now more X Factor than big debates about big issues. Hope I am wrong

  • Malcolm Ford

    To be honest I thought the ITV programme was a disgrace. Every line and every shot was designed to show Cameron in a good light. I think ITV got spooked by claims Piers Morgan was too soft on Gordon. So maybe the effect if any neutralises itself out

  • Patrick James

    I didn’t watch it because I don’t have a TV but I don’t feel I missed much.

    I think people are a bit fed up with seeing Cameron. The novelty has worn off and there isn’t much else. Samantha has been pushed out to add a bit of interest but I don’t think that will last long. I think the most talked about fact is that she is even richer than he is.

    The ministerial debates are much more interesting imho.

  • Em

    Those who are frustrated with Labour should think long and hard about how little the Tories must think of the British people that they put Cameron forward as leader. It smacks of cynicism.

  • Jacquie R

    Cameron may not inspire much enthusiasm, but today’s ICM poll shows that 68% think we need a new government and prime minister.

    At the risk of being banned from this site for saying it again, to win this election Labour desperately needs to refresh its leadership. My suggestion is to resurrect and upgrade the post of Deputy Prime Minister and give it to the talented,young and decent Ed Miliband. By taking a major role in the election campaign, and being perceived as a potential successor to Brown, I believe EM would inject the twin-edged ingredients of “change” and “hope”. Does anyone out there agree with me?

  • Peter Farley

    Tories 9% ahead in new Guardian/ICM poll… 11% in Express poll… That’s more like it, and more like what we are hearing on the doorsteps!

  • Brian Hughes

    Peter Farley must be visiting the wrong doorsteps.

  • Chris lancashire

    Is it possible you’re a teensey weensey biased in your review of the relative TV performances? Personally, the more we see GB on the telly the better.

  • dc

    did you see the news with cameron in deptford? one of the apprentices there summed up things nicely..things are not that bad under this governemtn, and unemplyment is a lot lower than expected, when cameron was challenged with this he replies i’ll come back to you later! he was actually more eager for the tame questions from the press than from the voters…why? because they will not ask the easy questions and nlike most of fleet street are not satisfied with the lack of any real substance to his answers. i hope he does more of these events because they will just show people more and more how the toriesare so desperate for power they will say anythings and stand by nothing!

  • Charlie Reynolds

    You back talking substance again?!

    Which public spending will Labour cut? The cuts you will make will be bigger than anything Thatcher ever did. You must all be so proud of your profligacy during the easy years. I don’t believe the Labour government is prepared to take any difficult decisions on the economy. Therefore they must be voted out.

    Let’s have some truth on Labour’s cuts to mend Brown’s debt mountain.

  • Robert Jackson

    Referring to an earlier post in this section about Conservative politicians I regret that Ann Widdecombe is leaving parliament.

    Yes she is a Conservative MP with Conservative values but she thinks for herself.

    I admired her principled stand against hunting with dogs and her being prepared to be critical of Michael Howard.