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Cameron is behaving like a man who thinks he’s lost, Miliband like the man who can beat him

Posted on 19 April 2015 | 11:04am

Greetings from Tirana, a quick day trip respite from the UK election campaign, to see how one of my favourite progressive leaders, Edi Rama, is getting on.

I have worked with Rama for several years, first in opposition and now in government, a landslide win for his Socialist Party having seen him installed as Prime Minister. He is also the only current PM or President to have played international sport, as a basketball player, hence his inclusion on teamship in that book I occasionally plug, WINNERS AND HOW THEY SUCCEED.

David Cameron is in the book but not on the cover with the winners. He is in the chapter on strategy as a very good example of a leader who has never really had one and probably wouldn’t know one if it hit him. One of the reasons I like Rama is he gets strategy. The same goes for Tony Blair (one of Rama’s political idols) and Bill Clinton.

I write about Cameron as a strategic butterfly who flits from one phoney passion to another, one tiny big idea to the next, but always driven in fact by tactical considerations and always, if the tactics don’t work, looking for another one.

Just a few weeks ago the Tory strategy was reasonably clear, founded on two planks. The economy and leadership. They knew there was some decent economic data coming down the track. And they had polls galore and mountains of media coverage saying Cameron was more Prime Ministerial than Ed Miliband.

But one of the lessons in WINNERS is never to confuse polls with reality and never to believe your own propaganda to the suspension of your own judgement. For some time polls have said ‘if there was an election tomorrow how would you vote?’ There is only one answer to that – there isn’t one tomorrow, not until May 6 comes.

Then there is the old ‘who do you consider to look more like a Prime Minister – Cameron or Miliband?’ Well let me tell you it is easier to look like a PM if you ARE a PM even if you have never actually won an election.

But what has happened to both of the above is that the ‘tomorrow’ in the poll question is getting nearer. And the question about Prime Ministerial qualities is getting more urgent as May 7 nears. So the undecideds have started to engage more than usual and reflect more than usual.

So what millions are beginning to feel and see is this – 1. This economic miracle Cameron keeps blathering on about doesn’t feel like it to me and my family. So they can only assume Cameron and Osborne are on about their own worlds, not that of the electorate. 2, freed from the prism of a totally biased, hostile, ridiculous right-wing press who hate Ed for being Labour, and hate him even more for his stance on Leveson and press standards, he is emerging in a different light, closer to the reality of those who know him.

This is also adding to the sense, Miliband having survived such an onslaught, that he has the calm and resilience needed for the top job, qualities I understand Cameron did not appear to have on display on TV this morning.

I did not see the Marr show, I was on the flight here, but twitter has given me a pretty good impression of a pretty bad interview. It seems to have echoed the point I made a while back, that psychologically he is campaigning like a loser not a winner. The Green Party do not expect to be the government. So they spray around spending commitments. But that kind of stuff gets judged more harshly when it is a prospective party of government that does it.

Also, his obsession with asserting a Labour-SNP coalition is on the cards shows he has lost in his mind. He has given up on a majority. And he is displaying a remarkable lack of awareness of self or irony in failing to see that Miliband’s ruling out a Lab-SNP coalition stands in stark contrast with his own failure to rule out such a coalition with UKIP, a party he has previously dismissed as a bunch of extremists and fruitcakes.

As for a positive, hopeful, optimistic vision of a better future, if a Tory candidate had to write it down, what would they say? They don’t have one.

Cameron is becoming more and more desperate. So is Lynton Crosby who, if he was on performance related pay, would be scrabbling around to raise the cash for a budget flight back to Australia.

I will be on a flight back to London in the morning, and doing whatever I can to help Labour win, and help see the back of a Prime Minister who couldn’t win in 2010, when the playing field was nicely rolled for him, and doesn’t look like winning now.

Bill Clinton told Tony Blair you need to show more zeal and hunger for a second term win than a first, because when you have power, people assume you will take it for granted. Cameron is showing little zeal or hunger, no vision, and so is reduced to scaremongering  about a Labour leader for whom he has shown contempt over five years, and talking up a Scottish leader who exists to break up the Union in which the Conservative and Unionist Party is supposed passionately to believe.

Cameron does not deserve to win. He is fighting this election as though it is frankly an irritation that he has to defend himself to the public. He is fighting it with a sense of growing anger that he could possibly be beaten by a man he has so consistently dismissed as a lightweight incapable of persuading the country he could be a Prime Minister. But in this, as in so much else, his arrogance and his belief in his right to rule are reaping a heavy cost for him. Because it looks like he could be wrong.

Miliband meanwhile looks like he has found his voice, found his energy, and is enjoying proving people wrong. More important than that, he is giving hope to people that this wretched government will not be around much longer, and that we need not have another five years of this.

…. Ps I hope you will forgive me this nepotistic act … My son Rory and I are in the Relative Values column in the Sunday Times today. Not only is he a brilliant son who helped me with WINNERS, but he is also a good runner, and has won a place in the elite field for the London Marathon next Sunday. He is running to raise money for my best friend and fellow Labour strategist, Philip Gould. This is the first campaign I have ever worked on without Philip, since his death from oesophageal cancer, so please give generously to Rory’s fund. He is accepting performance related sponsorship. The link to sponsor him is here Thanks

  • Redha Rubaie

    This is a very interesting article, but it does seem very difficult to understand how anyone could have a winning mentality when such a body of data suggests that there is no chance of either party leader being at the helm of a majority government. The win, as far as either party leader is concerned, constitutes being the largest party in the House of Commons, in spite of the posturing by both sides that they are able to win the election outright. But, credit to Miliband, he has improved his perception by the British people as a result of the debates. He was able to focus on policy when the parties he was debating against were peddling their ideological agenda. The fact is that he has, bar the occasional question on coalition terms, seemed above the fray of bickering over how nasty the Tories are and the evil of austerity Even if you believe those to be true, you are not going to get a majority based on that alone. His flourish at the end of the Challengers debate signaled an individual who has been gaining in confidence in these last few months. However, it really does beg the question of why he allowed such an image of him to develop that only now he is going to begin to dispell.

    • Michele

      I’ve also ‘come round’ to EM over the past few weeks, He’s always had obvious massive inate intelligence but he’s now showing ‘clever’ and a tad more emotion.
      His cool response to smartrrrrrs Paxman was superb and we can only be grateful it was caught in those closing seconds, wasn’t cut by Paxman’s minders!

      There is so much unfairness in our electoral system and no obvious way to right the wrongs – votes per seat, areas of constituencies, make-up of electorate’s economic situations and on and on.

      My biggest wish is that the selfish treachery of Clegg and the smarmy conversion of Cable (ex-Mr-Clean) reap their just desserts. Had I ever been one of their supporters I hope I would never be so again.

      • Redha Rubaie

        The problem with him having innate intelligence is that innate intelligence has to manifest itself in an intelligent image or else it counts for nothing. I have very little doubt that Harold Wilson was one of the most intelligent PM’s the country has ever had but he is still remembered with indifference in a lot of quarters. And I actually thought that the hell yes comment was not as good as others made it out to be. It smacked of an individual who seems to be trying too hard to be something he is patently not. North London geek is perfectly good if he is compared to a raging lunatic (hint hint, Miss Sturgeon).

        I agree that the electoral system is unfair on all parties depending upon the circumstances, you can only hope that is does not have too much effect upon the will of the population.

        And the reason why I generally praised EM’s performances on the debate was because he actually seemed to want to put forward his policy from time to time. Still far too much anti-Tory rhetoric (rhetoric will not win over educated voters) but it was definitely a step in the right direction

  • Dave Simons

    For some time now I’ve been getting braced for a minority Tory government, and the economic indicators, spurious as they may be, plus the leadership issue Alastair mentions, have all tended to confirm my fears. But I would never have predicted that the party with the fattest coffers at its disposal would make such a pig’s ear of a campaign in the run-up to a General Election. One of the worst things you can do pre-Election is show contempt for the electorate, and Cameron has done just that. How dare he assume he was going to get a second term and be in a position to then decline a third term? Accusations of arrogance and entitlement could not have wished for better confirmation. Only Nigel Farage on TV last Thursday has matched him, insulting an independently-selected live audience and daring to assume that he was speaking on behalf of everyone watching at home. Meanwhile Ed Miliband has noticeably grown during this campaign – I thought he was terrible in front of Paxman and not exactly great during the seven leaders debate, but last Thursday on the Opposition debate he was pretty good, and I say that even though I think he was wrong on Trident and wrong to totally discount an alliance with the SNP. I’m still braced for a minority Tory government but suddenly beginning to sense feelings of optimism!

  • Ehtch

    Oh god, listen to this c%nt – what a hollow box. As the old proverb says, empty vessels makes most noise! ; ) USE THAT!

    • Michele

      If you’re going to use ANY group’s genitals to insult this pr*ck please use the right one’s (nudge nudge right – geddit?).

      • Ehtch

        Any word will do Michele, w*nker, t0sser, kn#b, or just a tit. : )

  • Ehtch

    Interesting stuff today, 21/4/15, ref. a certain “Mrs Gove” and a certain “Mr Green”. A large portion of bigotry, followed by a large bit of rule breaking, which resulted in a Wikipedia ban. “The editors are not stupid, “Mr Green” “, he needs to be told. Wonder what Jeffery Archer is up to these days?

  • Ehtch

    Will do cutting vid, for the push. But not promising it will get into the top one thousand charts, but I will give it a go, friends. Not this one, the one I made Blue Peter earlier…

    • Michele

      Fab track Ehtch. Am embarrassed to say I just didn’t ‘get’ Pulp at the time!

  • reaguns

    Haven’t been on here in a while, the wait for posts to be posted puts me off a bit, really wish this would change and this could be one of the best blogs on the net.

    But my tuppence on the election – doesn’t matter who wins. The tory manifesto is marginally to the right of labour’s, but not enough to matter, and anyway once in power, the tories will govern a bit to the left of where they say they will, just as they have this time, and labour will govern to the right of where they say they will, just as they did last time and every other time, so it really really does make no difference. Neither party leader does it for me on a personal level either.

    I think barring unforeseen events, which are unlikely, Cameron will win the most votes, Miliband will win the most seats, neither will have enough for a majority, and Miliband will do what Cameron, Clegg or any other politician will do which is enter a coalition or supply and confidence arrangement with whoever he needs to in order to grasp power, in this case the SNP.

    My only hope is that this election creates a complete mess to the extent that Cameron is removed as Tory leader, but the Miliband / SNP coalition is so disastrous that a second election is called and Miliband is removed as labour leader before that. Perhaps a Johnson & Johnson, ie Alan vs Boris in Autumn 2010 or Spring 2011 would get the blood pumping a bit more. And by the way, I am sufficiently centrist that I would be happy to see either Alan or Boris in no 10 ahead of these two.

  • reaguns

    Just wanted to also add on behalf of Alan Johnson, on This Week they were debating the “right to buy” or whatever the tories are calling the scheme which extends it to housing associating tenants, and Alan Johnson was able to reply, the only top level politico who can, that “I was against the original right to buy, and unlike the other people in the debate, for me it was more than an academic issue because I actually lived in a council house!”

    To show even more why I like him, he then added: “I chose not to buy, not for any political or ideological reasons, but just because it didn’t suit my personal circumstances at the time. If it has suited me personally I would have bought it, but still would have disagreed with the policy.”

    I think there are just as few people in the modern tory or labour parties who could utter the second paragraph as could utter the first.

  • reaguns

    I can tell that Alastair Campbell doesn’t really believe in Ed Miliband, even though he believes in Labour. It jumps out of the page at you, from everything he writes.

    The point about Ukip is as ridiculous as Ukip themselves are. The SNP will be a major power broker post election. Ukip will not. Thought they may damage the tories, Ukip will get somewhere between 0 and 3 seats. The SNP will get somewhere between 30 and 40.

    On the other hand, Alastair quite rightly keeps talking about Cameron’s lack of strategy and is absolutely correct. Leaders who have strategy, I feel it often comes naturally because it comes from their beliefs, their passion, their vision, the reasons they got into politics, the things that get them out of bed in the morning.

    Take Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, even John Major, even Gordon Brown – they had beliefs, they had a vision for what they do with the country. Cameron, and Boris Johnson would be the same, just wanted to become prime minister in order to win, in order to be the first of his Eton cronies to do so. He had no plan to do anything once he got there, and this has been obvious in everything he does.

    • Michele

      I don’t think DC and BJ are very similar at all.
      BJ really is from another planet, considers himself separate from human plebs.
      He probably can’t be blamed, gets it from his Dad who’s a bit of a Marie Antoinette (‘let them eat cake’).
      When SJ was asked how many sons he had put through Eton and reminded how much per year the fees are he feigned unawareness / shock.
      Sickening, not as entertaining as he thought it.