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The lethargy of the Cameron campaign – is he too posh to push?

Posted on 11 April 2015 | 6:04am

David Cameron popped up on the news again last night, as he has done most evenings for the past few years. He was with a small group of carefully chosen people willing to play along with his daily media opportunity, as he has been every day of the election campaign so far.

He used the word ‘important’ a lot, as he has done every day of his Premiership, as he has assembled surely the largest list of Prime Ministerial ‘priorities’ about which he has been ‘absolutely passionate’ in Prime Ministerial priority history.

The ‘story,’ in so far as there was one, was volunteering, and the half-baked back-of-fag-packet plan to get more people doing it. Earlier Eric Pickles, like Michael Fallon the day before, had done a very good job of demonstrating what happens when Cabinet ministers are expected to defend half-baked plans and attacks dreamed up by Australian strategists panicking that their strategy isn’t working.

There was however something strangely nostalgic, as Mr Cameron did that weird, over managed double hand movement that he thinks he used to see Tony Blair doing when talking to the public, hearing the words ‘Big Society’ pass the Prime Minister’s lips.

Now the Big Society, I will be honest, was the one of the many Cameroonian strategies we have had, which for a time worried me, and made me think that he might just be the real deal. It sounded like something that could give real meaning to the idea of compassionate Conservatism. However, that was before the lack of policy follow-through confirmed that it was just another meaningless slogan designed to make people think he was different from your average bog standard old Etonian Bullingdon Club Tory who knew he wanted to be Prime Minister but didn’t really know why.

It really has been a staggeringly bad campaign for the Tories so far. So bad, I am beginning to doubt that Mr Cameron really wants to win, and beginning to wonder whether he may be, as they say in maternity circles, too posh to push. I know he is putting in the hours, but he just doesn’t look up for it.

A few straws in the wind to support my view. The refusal to go head to head with Ed Miliband after all he said about the importance of such debates. The fact that he signalled, under no pressure to do so, that he would not fight a third election if he won this one. The fact that his wife and children sat in the gallery for the final PMQs of this session. It reminded me of footballers taking their kids out as mascots on the last home game before retirement. Was he thinking, even subconsciously, that they might never get the chance to see him at that Despatch Box again? The lack of energy and imagination in the campaign. The lack of hunger, as shown by the decision to keep him away from any risk, any member of the public other than those his handlers know are ‘safe.’ (The media are letting him away with this but that will change when boredom really sets in.) The fact that he seems to prefer talking about his family than he does about policy and the big challenges facing the country and the world. The fact he has yet to say or do anything interesting or memorable since the campaign began.

Cameron’s 2010 campaign at least had good pictures, and when he popped up on in the news there was a bit of energy and dynamism to him. That is lacking. And so, as ever, is a clear strategy. They have been convinced themselves that the economic data and their attacks on Ed Miliband were all they needed.

But suddenly we had yesterday a bit of rail fares, a bit of volunteering, and very much a sense that they were realizing Plan a wasn’t working and Plan B hadn’t really been thought through. Hence, today adding another unfunded multi-billion pound pledge for the NHS they are slowly wrecking. Well not so slowly actually.

There is a passage in WINNERS AND HOW THEY SUCCEED, where I record how before a match Manchester United full back Gary Neville would retreat to a toilet cubicle and focus on his opponent for the day and ask the question ‘will he want it more than me?’

That desire to win is fundamental to any fight. Cameron appears almost becalmed. The passion he seeks to generate for whatever cause he is talking about seems tired and actually indifferent to the cause. He doesn’t look like a man with a zeal to win. Suddenly, Ed Miliband does.

Of course Labour also have major challenges to meet before a majority comes into view. The polls may not be where Lynton Crosby said they would be at this stage, which is good news for Labour. But the leads there have been are small. Also in Scotland the SNP lead remains large, and as Nicola Sturgeon never tires of saying, a huge win for the Nationalists there could be the difference between Labour winning or hot

For the past few years, the Tories have persuaded themselves that telling everyone the economy is recovering, and that Ed Miliband is a disaster, would be enough. But the first part of the message doesn’t chime with the way millions feel about their lives, and the second part is being eroded by Ed Miliband’s conduct in the election campaign so far.

Miliband looks, sounds and acts like he is up for the fight. Cameron doesn’t. Either he just resents all this challenging of his record and being held to account, and frankly sees this election as something of an irritant. Or, he has had enough and can’t wait for the day he is off doing something else. Whatever it is, he is not giving the sense – to the public or, importantly, his team – of a man with a winning mindset. He should get hold of WINNERS, and look up Pakistani cricketer Wasim Akram in the index. Page 161. Wanting to win is not the same thing as will to win. Everyone wants to win. Will to win is about whether you do the things needed to give yourself the best chance of doing so.

Another week like the one he has just had, and the Tories will start to think their leader just doesn’t know the difference.



  • Mark Wright

    All I’ve learnt about Cameron so far this election is that he has a pretty good home life in Chipping Norton with a loving wife and family. Who wouldn’t want to get back to that?

    The Con/Lib coalition has been a breeze for him – he knows it’s unlikely to be that easy again.

    Seeing him holding that sheep I noticed pure contentment for the first time on the campaign. Seriously. I think Dave wants to go back to being a country boy again. He’s ticked ‘Being PM’ off his list of ‘things to do’ – he doesn’t need another five (more difficult) years to ram the point home.

    Much like his predecessor Gordon Brown I think Dave sees being Prime Minister as the second best job in the world to being a husband and father. Fair enough really. It looks like he does his first job pretty well. He should stick to that one really.

  • thebigfeller

    He hates his party, Alastair. They’ve never loved him, and never let him get away with that much. If only Gordon had called a snap 2007 election when he should’ve done, Cameron would’ve been toast.

    Like John Major, he has no fixed principles; he doesn’t have that much by way of political cunning or nous, And until now, again like Major, he’s simply survived. No over-arching agenda, no grand plan – and despite him being Britain’s most Eurosceptic PM ever, he’s barely held his party together at all. His failure to win the 2010 election infuriated them; his failure to provide an EU referendum in this Parliament, likewise; and then came gay marriage.

    Just imagine, for a moment, in some parallel universe, you’re David Cameron. Whatever the whys and wherefores, you’re the first Tory PM in a generation: you grasped the poisoned chalice and dragged the party back into power (at least up to a point). Then you find that, when you simply acknowledge that it’s the twenty-first century now, and there’s this thing called social equality, all hell breaks loose.

    That’s where the Tory exodus to Ukip, in terms of both MPs and support, came from: gay marriage. And much of the rest of his party have hated and been desperate to get rid of him ever since. Would YOU want to lead a party which turned on you over something like that? Would anyone?

    So he’s demob happy. Just marking time, win or lose – and exhausted by having had to manage the most difficult Parliamentary Party this side of the Republicans for a decade.

    As for Labour’s mini-surge: throughout my life at British general elections, the party considered more economically competent and more centrist given prevailing conditions has done best. At this election, one of those golden rules is going to vanish. It’s looking increasingly like it’ll be the former.

    • Stripey

      You are right – they’ve voted for the party considered more economically competent. The Conservatives.

  • tomleatherbarrow

    I’ve thought for some time that his heart isn’t in it. I’ve worked with old Etonians (a number I’ve liked enormously) but I think their view of the world is that they lead and the rest of us take orders. The problem is that the world is much more complicated than their upbringing has led them to believe – parliament, coalition, negotiating with our European partners all require a much more sophisticated approach and outlook than “just do as I tell you”! I just think Cameron has found the job much more difficult than he thought it would be!
    Love Winners by the way not up to the Wasim Akram bit yet!

  • Gillian C.

    Cameron either comes across as a little lackluster or mildly irritated and impatient. Not a way to win a general election. But it might not lose it for him either.
    He’s already talking about not completing a full second term as PM. Strange thing to say in the midst of the campaign.

    Am I relishing the prospect of Ed Miliband becoming PM? No absolutely not and for many different reasons.

    • Ehtch

      David Cameron’s sheer natural arrogance has been topped up by five years of being the big man in the UK, our PM Gillian. He has well and truly entered the land of Megalomania, a psychological condition, with symptoms of delusionality, terminal.

      And I think Ed M will be a fine Prime Minister, a kind of Clement Attlee+. Efficient with no flannel, nor constant lies/misinformation.

      • Stripey


  • guy

    Let’s hope they don’t listen to your advice!

  • Tim Dwelly

    Yes – and the Tories latest tax cut for millionaires announcement (this time inheritance tax) seals a sense that they have some kind of death wish or are very stupid

    • Stripey

      Wrong Tim. Just think about what you are saying. The 45p tax rate applied for a very short period of Labours 13 year rule. By talking about a tax cut for millionaires you are just making yourself sound silly.
      Hindsight is great, isn’t it.

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  • Michele

    Is Nick Clegg losing the last thread of decency that people used to think he embodied?

    What on earth is the connection that inspired him in today’s spouting about Ed Miliband? Whose dependence is he alluding to re someone’s last drop of vodka – his own?

    Re Cameron and ‘too posh’ ….. too smooth.

  • Stripey

    Alasdair – wrong!