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In staying above the fray, Cameron is more regal than Prime Ministerial

Posted on 20 December 2010 | 12:12pm

I can’t help thinking that if Tony Blair or Gordon Brown were Prime Minister, there would by now have been a media and/or political outcry about their seeming lack of interest or involvement in the weather situation.

You have to have a lot of qualities to get to be PM, and even more to stay there, and David Cameron clearly has the quality of managing to stay above the fray. So it was Nick Clegg who got it in the neck for tuition fees, local authorities who will cop it for cuts to council services, George Osborne who is making a few headlines for failing to get back from New York for a meeting with the banks, and Transport Secretary Philip Hammond who is leading the government handling of the snow. Mr Cameron could be sunning himself on an Australian beach for all anyone in the UK has heard of him.

Mr Hammond strikes a good tone, and perhaps his dominance on the issue reflects Mr Cameron’s faith in him. Nothing wrong with that. But up in Scotland, Alex Salmond was forced to get out there and defend his handling of the response, and lost a minister in the process. Mr Cameron really does have a knack of staying right out of things when they get a bit tricky. I wonder if in his head, he isn’t more Head of State than Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, I support the edict from Ed Miliband’s office that Labour politicians should emphasise the Conservative-led nature of the government. As I have said before, it suits Cameron’s purpose to have his junior partner, Nick Clegg, take so much of the flak, and whilst Clegg and the Lib Dems are an attractive target, this is a Tory government pursuing Tory policies.

Cameron’s habit for avoiding the dirty stuff appears to be dictating his approach to the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, where he is indicating that he does not want to see the Lib Dems too badly damaged. It is hard not to feel a bit sorry for the Tory candidate – just a bit – to have his leader undermine him as the campaign gets underway.

But it is all in keeping with this approach that removes him from the fray. If the Tories do badly, it will be nothing to do with him; if the Lib Dems do get wiped out, he will be able to say well, he tried to help them, but what can a chap do? All very odd.

  • Chris lancashire

    Cameron probably learnt it from Teflon Tony.

  • EoinClarke

    AC,

    Good post.
    It is a good approach and one that has served him well. How best to challenge it? Personally, I don’t favour a Barbarossa style switch to taking on blue… The public are not ready to listen yet. The political capital built up in the blue corner means that you can hurt them best when people are feeling the pain of blue cuts. Only then. can the average Joe Schmoe conceptualise the dirty deeds done. For now, and until May, the strategy should have been to go toe to toe with Nick. We had an outside chance of an outiright majority in Holyrood with that tactic. The public more readily conceptualises yellow betrayal, because it permeates every asepct of the MsM and their social life… Reds could have finished off Clegg by August and then turned to the party conference with some policies, the pain of cuts fresh in people’s minds, and took full aim at blue. I track polling changes over the last thrity years. The eight months of blue power this time round has seen the most resilient polling by an incumbent for 30 years. Go back, if you get the time, and look at the post Howe ’81 landscape, it was a jobless recovery and Thatcher was not punished… the lessons are there.

    Éoin

  • KIng Canute took a regal approach to the elements – and probably wished he had stayed indoors by a warm fire! In France the Prime Minister and President have just ganged up against France Météo (“not me, guv.”) while the said France Météo counters by arguing they could do much better if their state funding hadn’t been so severely cut. Some issues, it seems, are not restricted to Britain.

  • Jacquie R

    Cameron had better get his act together. The current transport disruptions are causing more misery and anger than Labour disruptions – owing to both the time of year and the feeling that sufficient measures are not being taken. It’s no good Hammond implying it’s Labour’s fault and the money isn’t there unless it’s made a political priority. We don’t care about the whys and wherefores. We want to travel. Now. And we’re looking for people to blame!

    But Cameron has a deft way of dealing with these things and I’m sure we’ll soon get his sympathy, tears and a little Churchillian pep talk. There’ll also be some meaningless gesture to show how he is making “sacrifices” to share the nation’s Christmas chaos. I’m sure Andy Coulson will think of something.

    As most of my family’s Christmas is now buggered, the only way I will be placated is the sight of government ministers sweeping snow off the Heathrow tarmac. That’s what I would call the Big Society!

  • And wasn’t that nickname derived from Teflon Bill?

  • Pam

    Typical socialist. Always someone’s fault.

    It’s winter. It is snowing.

    Deal with it!

    Pam

  • Tatsjhana

    David Cameron isn’t a “real” P.M. In the literal sense maybe but not actually.He wasn’t elected into the role and is only there because he is being propped up by his puppies the LibDems.
    While he and his gov. are introducing and legislating his party’s ideology onto the many of us who find said acts heinous David Cameron must be laughing all the way to and fro No 10.
    He is almost “the man who would be king” getting his dirty work done without facing the consequences or paying any price for it.
    Frankly, the majority of people don’t want to “see” him or really want to accept him as P.M. Easier maybe to pretend he doesn’t exist.A “faceless” entity.
    However, exist he does and P.M. he is so all of us from “the Masses” that he perceives us as being must,imho,start realising that it’s him we have to “hit”,make a stand against and make him accountable to us the electorate.Make him realise that being P.M. is a position that bears with it the weight of the whole country and not just his eliist few.
    The onus is on us all to really make him pay for what he is doing.That means brining him into the spotlight and challenging him.
    We are,after all. part of “Big Society” and as such really must show him what this means.He can’t be allowed to wriggle off the hook any longer.
    Great to have a new blog 😉

  • Olli Issakainen

    I guess we here in Finland could teach Britain a thing or two about snow!
    Spikes are obligatory in tyres during the winter, and there is under-soil heating in our city centres. That´s for a start.
    Merry Christmas to AC and his family. And to all regular readers of the blog and all Burnley fans.

  • Dave Simons

    Wasn’t Teflon Bill preceded by Teflon Ron? Oh but Ron was a Republican! Your omission illustrates Alastair’s point perfectly.

  • Richard

    New Labour, after 12 years “Two Jags” transport policy, left a cracking legacy of magnificent infrastructure improvements, Tested to destruction last Winter, the road and rail systems have come up trumps yet again. Well done New Labour!

  • Jacquie R

    If one can’t take out one’s frustrations with a good old whinge, without a stuck up comment from someone with a sense of humour bypass, long live the socialists! Yeah!

  • Anonymous

    Quite right Pam. Give all these people at Heathrow a brush & shovel and we’d have runways clear in no time. Similarily every driver should be obliged to carry a shovel and dig himself out of trouble, and of course we should all clear our own pavements and have an adequate stock of food put by. You know what —all those socialists have been spoiling us by doing things for us.
    It’s called society (oh but there’s no such thing!).

  • Sarah Dodds

    Food for thought…..
    “Snow brings travel misery.”
    I hate to picky, is it really “misery?”
    I’m hearing lots about airplanes/airports/trains. Lots of “we go now live to another angry person who can’t get to Thailand.”
    They have reason to be pissed off. Hell, I know I would be.
    But I have yet to hear a thing about the plight of the homeless in this. No information lines for them to call if they are concerned. I’m sure some noble souls are giving them free meals and hot drinks. Aren’t they? I’m assuming someone is giving them a bed and maybe a blanket or two so they don’t have to sleep on a cold hard floor. Aren’t they?
    Does something only become news if it bothers the middle/upper classes?
    It is a temporary pain in the arse from which the majority will bounce back.
    Misery comes when you do not the power choose to end it.

  • Andysearson

    Totally agree with your analysis Eoin. I think Clegg could have been put to the sword and then an all out attack on Cameron. The more the public see and hear him the weaker his position becomes. This was true at the election and I don’t feel the public have taken to his cockiness and arrogance. When he is pinned down on policy he
    genuinely appears unconfortable and resorts to put downs or empty rhetoric.

  • Jacquie R

    Fair point, Sarah, everything’s relative and we shouldn’t feel sorry for ourselves when there’s real suffering going on. On the other hand, when some people have been saving up all year to spend Xmas visiting their loved ones and have their plans thwarted, it’s not a disaster, but it is bitterly disappointing. At the same time, if you have to spend the night on an airport floor with tiny children, or hours stuck in a freezing car, the word “misery” does come to mind.

    But I do think you’re right to remind us of our priorities and I will now shut up on the matter – probably!

  • Andy,

    Yes, he has overcooked the persona. It is sad to say but I think it is just the real him coming out.. His humour is perverse. I don’t recollect Tony/Gordon getting pleasure out of ridiculing others. Women voters especially, will find that side of him disconcerting.

    A point often missed is the extent of problems brewing on the government backbenches. high Speed Rail, Knife Crime and Euro Bail Outs are chipping away at Blue togetherness. This would not have happened if blues had been in siege mentality…

    The most beautiful thing about blues at the minute.. is that they are behaving as if they would have done had they had a majority. By taking the yellows for granted the are committing a cardinal sin. They are losing that hunger for power than often sustains a government enough so to prevent disloyalty until at least a second term… Having passed Tuition fees, they will feel even more emboldened.

  • Phil

    Just a week ago, in the few days thaw after the first big freeze, the Government announced cuts grant support to local authorities. The local authorities responsible for highways maintenance will lose an average of 10% in 2011/12 compared to this year. Even in the middle of an exceptional winter, these Conservative fools can’t see the wider economic benefit of services such as gritting operations. A case of penny wise, pound foolish.

  • Pam

    I can’t remember Gordon Brown being elected into the role but we had to put up with him for 13 years.

    I, like you, didn’t want to see him or hear him…. also

    the elitist few don’t just exist on the Government side.

    Last time I looked all the shadow cabinet were millionaires and they certainly don’t act like good socialists and share their wealth with the needy. They all seem to be making hay while the sun shines and filling their boots including the Kinnocks and Prescott… and

    don’t believe all the bullshit about ideology – that’s just the left’s attempt to stir-up the foot soldiers like you.

    Pam

  • Rosie

    Alastair. I’m pretty sure I saw our esteemed Prime Minister on Channel 4 news, out with one Boris Johnson, switching on some lights somewhere. Looked like a big stadium. So, I don’t think it’s fair to say he’s not been busy. It was a good photo op!

    It would have been better if the lights had come on straight away, but there was a child there. I think it may have been her fault. Dave suggested she wasn’t pressing the switch hard enough. Ah well.

  • Pam

    You know Marymot – that is just like it used to be!

    Everyone should get off their big backsides and shovel a bit of snow.

    It ‘s a great way to keep fit and much safer than jogging in the snow.

    Pam

  • Teresa

    Deal with it, how kindhearted you sound.

  • Robert Jackson

    Richard, the first years of the Labour Government were spent replacing cracked rails that the Tory Government had been merrily ignoring.

    No lectures on infrastructure, please.

  • Anonymous

    I give up!.

  • Anna

    Pam:

    Could you please familiarise yourself with the political practices of this country? We may or may not like it, but the Parliamentary set-up allows for a politican to take over the role of Prime Minister mid-term provided he has the support of his Parliamentary Party. A few examples of ‘non-elected’ Prime Ministers apart from GB: Alec Douglas-Home, John Major, Jim Callaghan and….ta ra, ta ra…in 1940, another chap you might have heard of…Winston Churchill. Now does that make you feel better, dear?

  • Robert Jackson

    Pam,

    In the GOOD OLD DAYS to which you are so endeared the larger councils had direct labour doing all the stuff that the Tories encouraged to be subbed out – from building and repairing council houses to collecting the rubbish.

    So when there was a drop of snow in the cities all these bods on the council payroll were there shovelling snow in the way you achingly desire to see others do now.

    But which, obviously, you do not want to pay for through your council tax.

  • Curtiscasalea

    A sorry picture of power lust swamping responsibility and principle. The DT sting is cheap and no better than the Wikileaks diversion. But the playground boastfulness and political immaturity of judgement by Cable taken together with the weak leadership response from Cameron confirms the bad joke we are living through – notsomuch a coalition as a convenient and self serving coexistence.

  • Railways in total account for less transport capacity than the typical annual increase in road usage. The idea that by not building roads we’d all move to rail was always a fantasy which Prescott was presumably too innumerate to recognise.