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Cameron’s Conservatism beyond parody

Posted on 9 September 2009 | 10:09am

If you’d watched the BBC News last night, you’d have thought Rory Bremner had given up his serious commentator bit and gone back to being a funny impersonator dreaming up lines that no politician, surely, would ever have the nerve to deliver. David Cameron’s performance was beyond parody.

The scene was Dave’s kitchen, where he was clearing away the cereal boxes – like he does every morning when the BBC cameras pop in – then engaging in a bit of small talk with Samantha before raising his voice to utter the words ‘trust me’ as he turned from wife to camera. I would instinctlvely worry about the marriage of a man who felt he had to tell his wife to trust him as he left for the office, but of course the words were directed not at Mrs Dave, but at the BBC team who would later put together political editor Nick Robinson’s package.

Off to work, which mainly entailed delivering a speech of such soaring populism that even I, no stranger to the occasional populist touch, found myself squirming in embarrassment. Here we are, looking at post-economic crisis public sector debt figures on a mammoth scale, and Dave would like us to think he can deal with it by adding fifty pence to the cost of Vince Cable’s tomato salad in the Commons canteen.

Then there were those other big cuts he was going to make – lower salaries for MPs, fewer ministerial cars. When he admitted that the sums involved amounted to a ‘pinprick’, it was the ‘prick’ part of the word that stuck in the mind.

Cameron, with millions in the bank, does not have to worry about the paycut. Nor do several of his similarly loaded frontbench colleagues who would prefer to get back to the days when politics was the plaything of the wealthy. But even after the expenses scandal, there must come a point where as a democracy which claims to want high quality politicians from all backgrounds, we recognise that paying MPs higher not lower salaries, whilst politically difficult, might actually be the right thing to do. Populism dictates you keep pandering to the anti-politics mood of the moment. Should Cameron make it to Number 10, he may regret it.

During a quick scour around the web to see how his speech was covered, I came across another piece of Tory uber-parody in the Telegraph. Byline Tara Hamilton-Miller. Headline ‘How cool are David Cameron’s Conservatives?’ Picture of Dave and Sam in their Boden-gear on the beach. (Does he shave his legs by the way? That would be cool.)

Tara H-M spells out what it is that is making young Tories feel they are part of something exciting – ‘David Cameron choosing to be interviewed in the fashion magazine Grazia, and Boris Johnson appearing on the front of a London Fashion Week special issue of Elle magazine embody all that is fresh and forward-thinking about their party.’ Isn’t it great to see the noble causes and the great crusades are still driving people in politics?

Tara, who clearly likes Dave a lot, scoffs at those who said that the ditching of tweeds and ties, or Dave’s trip to Scandinavia to hug huskies, were just part of a cynical rebranding exercise. ‘They were the actions of young Tories doing what felt right.’ Aw sweet.

And anyone who thinks the party is run by a bunch of Notting Hill toffs, she relays excitedly, should know some of them have moved out of the area. To Kensington and Chelsea I guess.

But there’s more from the Tara-Tory message machine … the ‘boys’ at Central HQ are really interested in real ale, and some of them go to real ale festivals. Oh yes, we are talking real men of the people here. Some of them go to a pub where the ‘lady bartender’ is mean to them ‘and they seem to like it.’ Another sign of their ‘increasing confidence’, says Tara, is that they don’t mind having a go at karaoke. Honestly, I don’t normally urge people to get the Telegraph, but this bilge has to be seen to be believed.

Nor should we worry that Dave’s team is so heavily male-dominated, says THM. Because they love nothing more than to get home and read bedtime stories to their kids.

The best parody line comes when she says ‘Cameron’s Conservatism is about being politically serious.’ Shame her piece appeared on the day so many people realised from his speech that it is anything but.

  • Bearded Socialist

    Top piece, top. Put a smile on my face and a laugh in my heart.
    Course, i’ll be laughing on the other side of my face when they run the place, but i’ll enjoy it until then.
    Good news on the economy too

  • Michael

    It’s is true that Cameron’s proposals yesterday are like spitting on a red hot shovel. But what do you have to say about Darling’s speech, or the Cruddas critique of Labour? I was hoping you’d comment on Cruddas in particular.

  • @jlocke13

    methinks you do protest too much….brilliant piece of PR that you wish you had orchestrated…unfortunately your leader is beyond even your not insignificant skills.. and why do socialists bang on about how rich the tories are..no rich socialists? Your friend John Prescott has done very well on the back of the taxpayer…

  • Nick

    “Even I squirmed with embarrassment”.

    So says the man who got Blair to comment on Deirdre Barlow being jailed in Coronation Street. The same man who got Blair to pose outside Number Ten with a mug containing pictures of his kids. The same man who coerced the security services to amend their “dodgy dossier” in order to send our troops to war.

    A.C – now being beaten at his own game, and he can’t take it 🙂

  • Matt

    Hi Alastair,
    Whilst I thouroughly enjoy reading your blogs and love the fact that you have an opinion (Goddam those that don’t!) I must take great issue with your latest blog. The reason being that I cannot believe how much you slate Cameron etc for trying to use the media to gain popularity, it’s the biggest load of double standards ever after everything ‘new Labour’ did in their campaign to get into power, I don’t doubt the cheesiness but at least Cameron, like TB, has an ability to be people friendly, unlike Gordon Brown, imagine him trying to pull off something like that. Cringe.
    I’m no political or media expert at all, just an on the fence business manager who hopes the economy picks up sooner rather than later, i hope to be able to vote with the party that demonstartes an ability to lead us from this recession (i get that it’s not Gordon’s fault really), or at least an idea how…Both parties will use every trick at their disposal to win the election. I understand your alleigance of course but to mock something you have been guilty of yourself ain’t right.
    I hope most sensible people see through all the rhetoric political rubbish that both sides spout and someone emerges with genuine leadership ability and unites the country and leads it back to where it should be…
    Sorry, i’m just in the mood to say something this morning!
    All the best
    Matt Ellis
    matt@bilinguarecruitment.com

  • matthew bond

    Excellent blog. When I watched Cameron last night I thought he looked really vulnerable. Alistair Darling skewered him on Channel 4 News. I think as people get the message about how unprepared he is to govern, especially in a period of crisis, they will come back to Labour. I see it as a speeded up version of Clinton’s comeback in 95-96.

  • Hal Waldman

    On one level, the news last night was the usual BBC love-in for Cameron. His speech did not really deserve serious attention at all. On the other hand I thought he looked very uncomfortable when Nick Robinson said he was having his cake and eating it – I noticed he started to sweat on his top lip. Perhaps in a TV debate we could have a Nixon moment

  • Christine Paulson

    I just read the Tara ThingyHyphenWhatsit piece. Hilarious. Should be required reading for anyone inclined to think these people are anything other than vacuous self-serving morons who think they have a divine right to be in power.

  • Sean Fleming

    Love it. I’m glad I’m not the only one who audibly groans at Dave’s TV appearances.

  • Andrew Thomas

    The remarkable thing is that the piece reads as if the Telegraph’s editor and subs are completely ignorant of the fact that Tara Hamilton-Miller is a former press officer for the Conservative Party.

  • Paul

    Come on Alastair, this is politics, you did much the same with Tony and of course he always pulled it off amazingly well. Cameron not quite in the same league but give him credit he is doing pretty well. As for the Telegraph piece yes vomit-worthy but remember the reams of Cool Brittania nonsense? Finally the plaything of the wealthy jibe is a bit unworthy of you. In fact your whole piece has a feeling of “sore loser” about it. Where is the fight in the labour party going? Are you just going to sit around saying Cameron’s a posh git while he tramples all over you??

  • Charlie

    AC. If you are not to spend the next few years in a state of complete nervous frustration, may I strongly recommend that you get used to Cameron’s style – fast.

    Those of us who found Tony Blair to be a nauseating hypocrite masked by a tin veneer of smarmy unctiousness found this to be a very helpful tip.

  • Simon Gittins

    You must have a short memory, it all reminds me of thirteen years ago, maybe that’s why you were squirming in embarrassment ?
    P.S don’t let Gordon hear you talking of ‘public sector debt on a mammoth scale’ , it’s Labour investment vs Tory cuts remember.

  • Victoria

    I saw the 10 o’clock news last night and it was awful. But what’s more frustrating is that the BBC played along with the whole ridiclous charade.

  • Craig, Oxfordshire

    Your best blog to date. The line about the Prick being the high-point.

    I have one question Alastair. “Why”? Why have the Beeb, Guardian, Independent et al fallen for this? Is it as simple as “He’s going to be the next PM so we need to cover everything he says and does in soft-focus”?

    If it is – I’m more convinced than ever that we need to introduce PR to ensure that the British electorate don’t make the stupid decision to vote for this shallow, inconsequential, awful party.

  • Jack

    And breathe….

  • Carole Harmison

    The other comic bits were Hague walking in with Cameron saying ‘it’s all going very well’, and Cameron walking into his ‘Downing Street preparation team’ saying ‘any news for me on the economy?’ They look like a bunch of kids who used to play sport but got bored with it and thought it would be much more fun to have a country to play with.

  • Danny G

    Why did I not hear this kind of reaction from anyone on the Labour team yesterday? These Tories are dreadful, and the public schoolboys who hog the media top jobs are letting them roll all over them

  • CharlesM

    I am surprised at your shock over such tactics. Tony Blair and Brown have never done such tv pieces of course!

    It appears as though the media believe the same as the opinion polls that Brown is finished and the Conservatives will win the next election comfortably. They are getting cosy so they are initially on the right side of the next government. It all has similarties with 1996 don’t you think?

    Labour should never have made Brown leader – if they had gone for someone different like Straw, Johnson or Miliband this would all be so different. Brown will go down in history as a worse leader than Michael Foot

  • Ian Eastwood

    Gesture politics at its worst……. But let him who is without sin etc.etc.

  • Jo

    How is this different from the BBC going in to film TB with his kids doing piano practice and playing on the swing? Do you not remember what you did with the press pre 97? How can you have such double standards?

  • Bernie

    Watch and wait.

    The fundamentals are:

    However much the big chunk of electorate will feel disgruntled with Brown, when it comes down to an election, Cameron and Osbourne are just too Establishment for words. The entire project over the past 4 years had been to try and diminish the Bullingdon/White’s ToffOfToffs stuff and place every POSSIBLE aspect of credibility out there – hence Caulfield, Tory Trolls on MediaGuardian, and most notably steadily staff the BBC newsroom with the same, Huw Edwards (overt), Maitlis (covert). It’s astonishing how comprehensive it is although it is Dave’s ‘trade’ right?

    But none of it negates the fact that he just doesn’t pass for PM material in 2010. His wife may have a tat, he may have a bloggy online persona, he may have said he likes The Jam and his favourite album is the The Queen Is Dead but I just don’t believe that the British people are and will buy it. Perhaps there’s no other way of putting it but DAVID AND GEORGE….THERE IS JUST NO GETTING AWAY FROM YOUR BLUE BLOOD.

  • Em

    Isn’t much we can do about a besotted media but I’m sure the piece was nauseating and the public will see it as such.

    All we have to drive home is that DC is all style no substance.

    Policy is “mon mot du jour”.

  • Terry Evans

    I didn’t see it but it sounds quite nauseating. The worry I have is the amount of coverage he’s getting and perception is everything. He is being perceived in the media as the Prime Minister in waiting. The Labour Party simply isn’t playing enough politics. We are 9 months from a general election and the campaining started a long time ago for the tories and it’s as if it’s a phoney war for the Labour Party.

  • Richard

    @Bernie – do you fancy a small bet on that? Be very glad to take your money off you (and suspect you would have a mightily long queue if you are willing to take the bet). The blue blood stuff is irrelevant. The sad but much more important truth is that people simply do not like Gordon Brown. They have had plenty of time to make their minds up, and they have definitively decided they do not like him at all. Even people who agree with his views don’t much like him. And even people who disagree with Cameron think he’s basically a decent guy. I’m afraid it is going to be a total rout.

  • Thomas Rossetti

    Cameron does indeed seem to be determined to follow in your old boss’s footsteps and show everyone what a terribly nice fellow he is. (In the case of Blair, one assumes this approach was suggested by you, Alastair.)

    The truth is that thanks to Blair and Brown, Alan Duncan could be leading the Tories and they’d still win at the next election.

  • Sybil

    “Cameron’s Conservatism” – Brilliant piece. Beware the wolves in Boden clothing.

  • Simon Gittins

    ‘But none of it negates the fact that he just doesn’t pass for PM material in 2010’
    …. and Gordon Brown does in 2009 ???

    This Labour government is much the same as the Tory one in ’97, totally unelectable. Whatever the shortcomings of the Tory leadership are, they don’t come close to those of Brown, Harman and Mandelson. Have we ever had 3 more incompetent and deceitful politicians at the head of government ?

  • Margaret Young

    Fantastic and very witty blog which exposes Cam for what he really is an opportunistic lightweight PR man. I can’t believe anyone is gullible enough to elect this empty vessel. More power to your pen for exposing Sham Cam for what he really is.

  • wyrdtimes

    I really can’t stand the Tories, they will soon forget their constituents and continue to put England and the English last.

    But right now the most important thing is to get rid of the supremely incapable Brown and as many Labour stooges as possible. Then we can knuckle down and try and pay off Labour’s debts.

    In the meantime more and more people are waking and finding they are English not British and soon gods willing we will throw off the British yoke forever.

  • fugitive ink

    Brilliant post.

    I am not sure which more more disturbing, though – Dave en famille, who apparently kisses his wife on both cheeks, mwwa-mwwa, before setting off to prepare for power every day, or today’s media offering, in which Dave and his trusty companion the would be Foreign Secretary confide to each other various vague, specifics-lite doubts regarding the recent Afghan elections.

    One of two things must be true. Either Dave doesn’t realise that when BBC are standing in his house, pointing a running camera at him, some recording might possibly ensue, or – more distressing still – he imagines that we, the voters, will be reassured by the level of political and strategic discourse taking place at the highest levels of the Conservative party.

    ‘Trust me’? Err, not a lot, really.

  • Jim Oakes

    The Tories will get in at the next election. It only remains to be seen how long it will take for the ordinary voters (as opposed to the very rich ones)to realise what a massive mistake they’ve made.

  • David Kingston

    TB (or was it you?) observed that it was not enough for a government to be unpopular but that a prospective government needs to make a clear case to be elected. This was in part based on the 1992 defeat. Dave and chums seem to be determined not to do this. Next year is still all to play for.

  • gary Enefer

    Dear AC

    Amazing blog and amazing response too. I must say I had to watch the news again as I couldn’t believe DC actually said ‘ Trust me ‘ by the dishwasher.

  • Bernie

    @Richard

    “I’m afraid it is going to be a total rout.”

    You – and Dave and George – should be afraid. It will be a much closer run thing than that. Watch and wait.

    And the blue-blood stuff? Oh I think it matters a great deal. It’ll be made to. 🙂 And is precisely why so much effort has gone into pretending otherwise. Thing is, that damn plummy accent, it just conjures up……so many unhelpful images….dunnit? If only we proles would just damn well recognise that it’s in the natural order of things that he should rule. Wot wot? It’s just simply Not Right for a direct descendant of royalty to still be loading The Dishwasher of Opposition.

  • Richard

    @Bernie

    Are you really saying the blue blood stuff matters more than a the electorate’s dislike of a universally ridiculed leader ??? Are you serious? When has the blue blood attack ever worked? Crewe? Sorry I don’t have much time for Cameron but this is delusional. Change the leader and there might be a decent chance. But there aren’t enough balls in the cabinet (excuse the pun) to manage that.