The Futility Monster

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Posts Tagged ‘David Cameron’

12 For 2012

Posted by The Futility Monster on January 2, 2012 @ 20:23

Continuing a fine annual tradition, it’s time to lay down a few markers for the coming year. It’s going to be a busy one, methinks…

  1. Starting at home, with yet another boring prediction, the Coalition will last the whole year. Get used to it, Labourites. It ain’t going anywhere.
  2. The Lib Dems will take a pounding in the local elections, especially in Scottish councils, where they will be wiped only for the saving grace that is a truly proportional electoral system. Predictably, it will all be dismissed, and the Lib Dems will accept it and carry on.
  3. David Cameron will finally conduct a proper reshuffle, though it still won’t be particularly far reaching. Osborne isn’t going anywhere and neither is Michael Gove. Lansley may be moved if the NHS reforms pass successfully to give someone else a chance. He will definitely be removed if they fail. The Lib Dems have such a paucity of front bench talent that there is very little room for manouevre… but maybe Nick Clegg will at least get a real portfolio at last, now the “political reform” agenda has vanished.
  4. Ed Miliband will remain Labour leader, in spite of generally underwhelming election results and another defeat to Boris in the London mayoral election.
  5. In Europe, the Euro crisis will be resolved with a “treaty”. The treaty will not get the UK’s blessing, and the EU will proceed into a closer union without the UK, creating overwhelming calls for an in-out referendum. If it starts looking tempting, expect Labour to back the idea.
  6. France will get a “Socialist” President as Sarkozy plunges to inevitable defeat.
  7. Rick Santorum will win the Iowa caucuses, but Mitt Romney will be the Republicans nominee for President.
  8. Barack Obama will squeak a narrow re-election against Mitt Romney.
  9. The Democrats will either lose control of the Senate or it will be an exact 50-50 tie, with Joe Biden, VP, suddenly finding a reason to exist. The Democrats will not re-take the House, but it will be close. This disastrous deadlock will result in two more years of pathetic governance in the States.
  10. Syria will continue to make a mockery of the West – and the uprising will eventually be brutally suppressed. Meanwhile, the rest of the Arab Spring becomes stillborn, and the tendency towards strong, authoritarian governments in the region will persist.
  11. Iran will successfully navigate the year without there being any progress on disarmament, and there will be no military activity of any sort. However, the West will begin sounding the war-drums, and the useless public will buy it.
  12. And all the while the schizophrenic public will continue to ignore the fact that Afghanistan has been, and will continue to be, a catastrophic failure. More lives will continue to be lost, though Obama will, mercifully, confirm a long, slow, drawdown over the next few years.

And the usual bonus prediction… Manchester City will win this year’s Premier League.

See you at the end of the year!

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Cameron’s “Misspeaks”

Posted by The Futility Monster on August 6, 2010 @ 14:20

Hmm...

David Cameron is a long way from George W. Bush’s league in terms of mis-speaking, but the past couple of weeks have been rather interesting and perhaps slightly concerning.

It’s hard to believe that someone so polished, with so much media experience, and with a term of handlers who know exactly how the media will react to anything, could be making so many deliberate mistakes though. From his frank talk about council housing, to speaking the truth about Gaza, or getting the Iranians’ backs up, and then marching Pakistan’s President up the hill and then down it again, it really hasn’t been a good time for him lately in the PR stakes.

We can only assume, given they wouldn’t deliberately be putting their foot in it, that these are actually the first tentative steps of a Prime Minister not yet acquainted with the extremely diplomatic language used on the world stage. A sign of inexperience. Not yet ready for prime-time, as some might cruelly quip.

The question, though, is maybe his approach is right. We all, apparently, want our politicians to be straight-talking with us. But how much “straight-talk” can we accept before they start saying things we really don’t want to hear? See Election 2010 for the proof, and the lack of acknowledgement of what cuts were around the corner.

The bizarre thing is that Cameron actually seems to be being liberated by power, rather than being constrained, as is the norm. In opposition, desperate to detoxify the Tory brand, everything the Tories said or did was carefully planned and co-ordinated. Sure, muppets like Chris Grayling would occasionally make a mistake, but on the whole, the top brass moved in lockstep, and nothing came from their lips unless it had been approved by eight out of ten focus groups.

But now, Cameron is increasingly speaking his mind, something he wasn’t really known for.

It might get him into trouble, especially on the international stage, where no one says boo to a goose. Indeed, the only person who ever really did in modern times – George W. Bush – ended up being quite widely despised for his total lack of refined character and inability to press the flesh or keep people sweet. Coalition building was never his strong point…

And that’s the problem. Coalition government requires the key players to keep talking all the time, and certainly not in public. Not if you want to keep the presumption of good faith on all sides.

Perhaps discretion from our politicians is the best thing after all…

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To Generation Y, The Big Society Is A Tough Sell

Posted by The Futility Monster on July 19, 2010 @ 11:11

It seems our invitation has some rather large strings attached...

It seems the “launch” of the Big Society press exercise is going to be nothing more than a guilt trip.

In reality though, how can it be anything else? The world has moved on. Communities are fragmented, populations moving around all the time, and mistrust of neighbours is a rather common occurrence, just because we don’t know who they are.

David Cameron can hardly legislate to change any of that. You can’t pass a law that makes people have a cup of tea with their neighbour, or attend the Reverend’s village fête, perhaps baking some cupcakes for the hungry attendees, or sticking a bottle of unwanted generic gin in the tombola. It’s all very rural England, don’t you think?

Society is moribund and has been for some time, certainly amongst my generation. Our idea of society, sadly, is what it can do for us. We’re a generation that feels pretty shafted in terms of unemployment, dodgy education systems, ridiculous house prices, and seeing most of our taxes go to finance massive deficits run up by our elders or going as election bribes to the oldest generations. As such, we’re a bit a bit suspicious of “society”. We truly are Thatcher’s children.

Now we are getting some different mood music. First, we’re being told that what we get in return for being members of this society is going to be cut, at precisely the time most of us are going to start using it in child benefits, child tax credits, NHS and education systems, etc.

Then we’re being told that money is not sufficient – that, instead, we need to get involved. Our time, precious enough already due to work and stupid amounts of commuting, is going to be called upon as free labour because the government can’t afford to pay people to, for example, clean up the parks or beaches any more.

I’m painting a picture of a rather selfish generation. Maybe we are. Forgive us, but we’ve been brought up that way. Capitalism did win, after all.

The worst aspect of all of this is that who is actually listening? When the reputation of politics is at an all time low, and the power of the politicians to compel us to be better members of society is almost non-existent, how will it be possible to achieve this grand Big Society?

It all sounds nice, harking back to a bygone age of community spirit. Maybe it would be nice to see some of that again. I would like to give something where I can, but it’s a tough sell. And if it’s just a cynical exercise in cost-cutting, then you won’t see any of us for dead.

Over to you, Mr Cameron.

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PMQs: To Attend Or Not To Attend?

Posted by The Futility Monster on June 3, 2010 @ 10:07

Clegg did sit on Cameron's right, honest! This is just an older picture...

Yesterday’s first Coalition PMQs provided much grist to the sketchwriters’ mills. And it also illustrated just how Labour intends to proceed taking on the cosy coalition.

After yesterday, the big dilemma for Nick Clegg will be to decide whether he should attend or not. Yes, it’s a coalition, and it would look mighty suspicious if Clegg was never supporting the Prime Minister, but it would also look mighty suspicious if he never left Cameron’s side.

The problem is this: the Labour Party’s leader is going to bring up, during one of their questions each week, a topic that potentially splits the Lib Dems and the Conservatives. If Nick Clegg is there all the time, the goal will be to make him look stupid.

Hattie tried that yesterday, with her discussion on the comedy married couple’s tax allowance. Nick Clegg sat through it with the same expression on his face. No nods. No shakes. No smiles. No smirks. Nothing. Just that neutral expression he has got down to a T.

Yesterday, he managed to avoid giving the game away and revealing his disagreement with David Cameron. Or, at least, I hope it’s still a disagreement.

But we’re only human.

At some point the body language will slip. The pundits will analyse these exchanges to death – even more than usual – looking for the merest curled lip or furrowed brow to indicate Clegg is feeling a little uncomfortable. That’s not going to be healthy for the coalition.

And it’s only going to get worse. Right now there is a comprehensive agreement outlining where the parties agree to disagree. All current issues are covered, and so they can be deflected by saying that Harriet is just trying to play the “old politics” of division.

But as time goes by, new issues will emerge, and Cameron and Clegg will not agree on everything. At least, I hope they won’t. Then Harriet, or whoever the new Labour leader is, will come forward with quotes from rebellious “senior Lib Dem sources” and make Clegg and Cameron squirm.

Clegg would be wise not to make sitting at Cameron’s right hand a regular fixture. Appearing too close to Cameron compromises the Lib Dems independence. But being too distant would undermine the tentative working relationship they have.

The sensible thing would be for Clegg to sit at Cameron’s side no more than 50% of the time, and possibly as low as 25%. It is just too easy for Labour, otherwise.

Politics in the media age, eh…

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Which Way To Turn?

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 11, 2010 @ 11:07

Executive summary: In a move that would shock most of the people who know me, I have no choice but to back the LDs into a coalition with the Tories. No other option is tenable, and coalition is the best way to achieve LD policies. Full thinking follows…


The incredible developments of yesterday have combined to produce a truly astonishing moment in British politics. The right went into synthetic rage when they realised that Nick Clegg had the sheer audicity of negotiating with another party. Meanwhile, Gordon Brown noticed the rather large writing on the wall that had been there since October 2007, and offered to fall on his sword.

Elsewhere, Nick Clegg got caught in a classic bind. Which way does he go?

I had been speculating for a while that something was amiss. It was clear that Mandy et al were telling the Lib Dems in secret backchannels that Brown would depart to smooth any transition. The LDs were clearly listening, but wanted to show the Conservatives the courtesy of concluding their negotiations first. That the Tories should be “shocked” that a horse-trade was soon to follow either shows their stunning naivety or breathtaking arrogance.

Either way, I’m certain the LDs and the Tories thought they’d finished the negotations yesterday. David Laws and his negotiating team were ready to get the deal approved by his fellow MPs, and then it was to be concluded in the Federal Executive later that day. The tenor of the coverage was that the deal was inevitable.

Instead, David Laws comes out and claims he has been asked to seek “clarification”. You bet he was. There was obviously some concern amongst the parliamentary party that the deal – for confidence and supply – was imprecise. They must also have realised that it was time to talk to Labour, and see what extra they could get from the Tories. That’s what negotiation is all about.

The path was then clear for Gordon to go public, and the dual talks to begin. Politicalbetting.com jumped the shark. I’ve never seen such vitriol, and such panic. All of a sudden, the Tories’ ascent to power was in jeopardy.

Open negotiations will now begin with both sides. That is right, and it is fair.

But the stakes are now extremely high.

It’s clear that Gordon Brown knows only a coalition will do. He said so yesterday. And the Tories have made their so-called “final” offer (I’ll bet you it’s not) – but the price will be a formal coalition, embracing the LDs so tight that their blood supply will be in serious jeopardy.

None of this was on the table a couple of days ago. The LDs were going to let a minority Tory administration form, and in return get some policies through. Politically, that was the right option. It would allow the LDs to survive. But in terms of delivering policies, it wasn’t.

The LDs now have the unenviable choice. Not supporting either party is no longer an option. It would be seen as extremely weak and indecisive after spending so long negotiating with them. It would also allow people to claim that this is somehow a disaster of PR (even though it’s under FPTP) because apparently negotiating and taking a little time over a new government is a failure.

The real killer, though, is that when faced with the chance of power, the LDs refused it. Then we’d get a run down of the old classics like: “You don’t know what you stand for!” and “What is the point of the Liberal Democrats?”

There are now just two options. A coalition with Labour, or a coalition with the Conservatives?

In terms of policy, there is only one answer. Labour. They will clearly be able to offer way more of the Lib Dem agenda because their situation is more desperate. They want to cling to power and will do anything to achieve it. A coalition with Labour may be the only chance ever the Liberal Democrats will get to push for the Single Transferable Vote and all manner of other reforms that the Tories could never support.

But realistically, a coalition with Labour would be a disaster. The waning power of the papers means that we could safely ignore their rancid rubbish. But it would nevertheless create days of hysteria about the “undemocratic” outcome of a coalition between two parties with more than a majority of support across all of the UK, including England. That’s not a problem.

The real issue is the fact that Labour cannot deliver their promises. A new leader could not be trusted. Neither could the rainbow of others. The fractious Labour Party is split a multitude of ways on the reform options. The party is ill-disciplined. It will not survive more than a year. Perhaps it doesn’t need to if STV is delivered quickly.

But it’s just not tenable. Another new PM with no election?

I don’t buy it. Not in this age with the presidentialisation of politics.

The Liberal Democrats have no choice but to form a coalition with the Conservatives. The reaction from the left of the party – a faction in which I count myself – will be tough to bear. But the LDs have negotiated so well that there is enough of our agenda in play. We can try to reassure Labour voters, through, hopefully, our record in office, that it was the right thing for the country, as it will tame the worst excesses of the Tory government we could so very nearly have had.

If it can survive in office for at least two years, it will allow the electorate time to reflect more on us with the benefit of hindsight. Perhaps we won’t be punished so harshly then.

This has to be wrapped up today. Though it is sensible to negotiate with all sides, we have done what we needed to, and that was force the Tories to up their game. Now we’ve done that, it’s time to look decisive, accept the new position, and avoid poisoning what is going to be our crucial relationship with the Tories before the government has even got underway.

This turned into an essay, but it’s because there are so many points to consider. It’s the most difficult decision the LDs will probably ever make. But in reality now, there can only be one outcome.

Good work, Nick. But don’t mess it up.

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A Coalition For Calamity Clegg

Posted by The Futility Monster on May 10, 2010 @ 09:30

This should be being played 24/7 in Cowley Street at the moment...

OK, I’m being mean as usual. Clegg is no calamity. At least, not yet.

If the unthinkable happens, and there is a coalition, what will it all mean?

In January, I wrote this post. Apart from a slight factual inaccuracy about the Lib Dems “triple lock” process it now looks eerily prophetic. Little did I know at the time that what I was writing could possibly come to pass. I thought I was dreaming…

I suggested that the Lib Dems might get the Home Office, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and one other. Apparently, the Lib Dems are currently being offered exactly that, with the third one being transport. I would like to crow about my extraordinarily prescient analysis, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

My real point however is this.

British political culture is used to yearly reshuffles. Mostly its a show of authority on a Prime Minister’s part. It reminds everyone who’s boss, and who has the power of patronage. It rewards loyalty and talent (ostensibly) and punishes dissent and failure.

If the Lib Dems take a coalition, and portfolios, it will make things very interesting. This yearly dose of fun becomes no longer do-able. If Cameron gives the Home Office to Nick Clegg, he can’t just sack him when he’s had enough. Nick Clegg has to stay there. He can’t exactly move him around to reassert his authority.

In truth, this is probably a positive development. British politics is too often like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. Year after year of shuffling the same old faces into different holes. It’s supposed to re-invigorate the government, but all it really does is ensure an astonishing lack of continuity, and a guarantee that once in a while – and usually way more often – each department will get a stunningly talent-free Secretary of State.

But this has its own risks.

The Home Office is the biggest graveyard in politics.

Currently the Tories have Chris Grayling as the shadow for this department, but there’s no way he’s getting it, coalition or no coalition. If there’s a coalition though, it’s the perfect excuse to demote him. No need for delicate discussions about how he just wouldn’t be right for one of the three Great Offices of State. Win-win for Cameron.

But lose-lose for Clegg.

There is no way in hell that anyone can have success at Home. It is a fire-fighting department, lurching from one disaster to another. The incumbent gets run ragged and loses all credibility.

That will happen to Nick Clegg too.

And he won’t be able to be re-shuffled.

It will be the albatross around his, and the government’s, neck.

All this is going to be a big shake up for the British political culture. How will the media adapt? How will the public adapt?

Still, we might not get a coalition anyway…

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The Third Election Debate: Wordled And Numbered

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 30, 2010 @ 10:25

Time for our final instalment of fun – with the third debate transcript this time. Before I begin, if you’re really into this stuff, you might want to look at my equivalent post from the first debate, and the second debate, for comparative purposes.

After calling this debate for Cameron last night, that impression has only been confirmed by the little exercise that follows. Executive summary: Cameron was less verbose, and hence had to be slower, more dignified… more prime ministerial.

Here go the Wordles…

Gordon Brown

Nick Clegg

David Cameron

I’ve been doing this long enough now to know that these guys are pretty robotic when it comes to the language they use. Cameron’s message is all about “people” – and it has featured prominently in all three of his Wordles. His other favourite word appears to be “need” – in the sense that “we need” to do X, or we need noun. It’s typical opposition talk: highlighting what he would do differently.

He also continues his trend for the word “actually” – an everyday word we all use – and in this final debate took the time to hammer on the word “government”, something he hadn’t previously done to this extent. Getting home his message about the end of this government and its failure, I suspect.

Nick Clegg’s Wordles, unlike David Cameron’s however, show more of an evolution across the series. Nick’s favourite word across the three was “think”, which seemed to work well in the first debate, but perhaps it got tired in the subsequent two. But in this debate, his “think” was outshone by “people”. Not good at all, especially as it’s clearly what Cameron was already doing. In fact, as the debates have progressed, Nick’s use of “think” declined as his use of “people” increased. It meant he lost his distinctiveness.

Nick’s keenness for talking about tax in this debate cannot have been an accident. While the questions gave him the opportunity, and there was much talk about “tax credits”, it was clearly designed to get the message through on the £10,000 personal allowance. That is sensible, as it is a well received policy, and if it has stuck in some viewers minds, perhaps it may be his saving grace from a disappointing performance.

Nick has also let himself down by getting too stuck in. It was illustrated in his “yes or no?” exchange with David Cameron on immigration. The electorate don’t like it. It smacked of more of the same. I highlighted this last time:

  • Debate 1 : “David” – 5 times; “Gordon” – 5 times
  • Debate 2: “David” – 14 times; “Gordon” – 18 times
  • Debate 3: “David” – 16 times; “Gordon” –  14 times

His excuse may be that he was largely ignored in the first debate. But most of it is in his hands. He actively chose to challenge the others. Time and time again, those wiggly lines show it invariably reflects badly on the attacker.

As for Gordon Brown, his decision to attack David Cameron is reflected in the Wordle by the prominence of it. He referred to “David” 31 times and “Nick” just 11. A remarkable reversal from the first debate, where he referred to them equally (11 times), and, as we all know, most of those referrals to Nick were positive. Again, this must be deliberate.

Gordon Brown went negative on everyone yesterday. “risk” “recovery” “inheritance” “cut”… the messaging was clear and coherent. Either his training worked, or the distraction of yesterday led to a slightly less well-prepared Gordon Brown, who went back to good old Labour instincts: attack the Tories for being the party of the rich. He was on message, but it just doesn’t seem to capture the electorate’s imagination. Like I said, negativity doesn’t really work. Or in this case, maybe it’s because of the messenger…

Moving on…

Third Debate: Vital Statistics
Gordon Brown David Cameron Nick Clegg
Words 5216 5087 5350
Sentences 256 295 283
Words per sentence 20.3 17.2 18.9
Flesch Reading Ease 60.8 68.7 67.5
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 9.8 7.9 8.5

Out of the three debate’s statistics, this one is the most interesting. The main reason is that Nick Clegg showed that old habits die hard. Too many words. Too much waffle. When you consider that they all must have roughly got the same time to speak, to chuck in an extra 300 words over Cameron must mean Nick Clegg spoke faster.

And yet, if you put it into the context of the other two debates, this was the least Nick Clegg spoke (1: 5476; 2: 5940). The problem is that it doesn’t matter in absolute terms. It’s only the comparison on the night between the three. And I did get the impression that Nick wasn’t as disciplined, and as focused as he had been in the previous two. That is borne out by the numbers.

David Cameron, instead, shows how he has steadily grasped the debate format. Shorter sentences – the shortest by far out of all nine transcripts (3 each per debate, of course) – and always speaking at an easier to understand level.

Especially in contrast to Gordon Brown. His longer sentences and penchant for multi-syllabic words like “inheritance”, “Conservatives” and “manufacturing” are responsible for nearly getting a 10 in the grade level, by far the highest out of all the nine transcripts, and a big rise on last week. Maybe that’s why despite his punchier performance, he lost people in the detail. But that’s Gordon Brown all over: a details man in a big picture world.

There’s so much more that could be done with these numbers, but that’s me for the day. I could draw some graphs comparing all these numbers side by side across the three debates, but why bother? No one’s reading anyway.

Instead, as per tradition, we finish with the moderator’s Wordle. Mr David Dimbleby:

David Dimbleby

Just look at that supreme example of BBC impartiality. Almost every name identical size. Perfect.

SOURCES

Please note my transcripts for each individual are cleaned up, no paragraphs, no line breaks, and no markers for where one part of the debate conversation began or ended. That’s the most useful form for textual analysis, and I share them with you above.

If you do anything else funky with this stuff, please place a link to it in the comments. I’d love to read it.

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The Third Debate Post-Mortem

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 29, 2010 @ 23:08

Cameron holding court...

The news is in, and it’s not good.

I thought Nick Clegg had a very strong first third of the debate. He got stuck in, he stood ahead of the other two, and didn’t get bogged down in the partisan bickering. He addressed the questioner. He looked at the camera too. A perfect balance.

Then it all seemed to go wrong.

Make no mistake, Clegg did not slip up during this debate. He was fairly strong, and especially so when the second question about direct taxes was such a gift to him. And I absolutely admire his bold, principled, and utterly correct, stance on the immigrant amnesty.

After that though, it didn’t work so well. His closing statement in particular was very poor. Filled with waffle and an incoherent narrative. And why so many glances at notes during it? He didn’t do that in previous debates. Nerves, perhaps?

Meanwhile, I have to give it Cameron. I disagree with him in a lot of places. And I think he really is a Conservative in every fibre of his being. His is an agenda of extreme individualisation, the continuation of the Thatcher legacy that was only perpetuated by Blair.

But his poise, his political antennae, his soundbites and his narrative were mostly correct tonight. He was shameless in shoe-horning in the Euro in a perfect stroke of attacking his rivals. He bashed Gordon Brown to hell. He patronised Nick Clegg like he didn’t deserve to be playing with the grown-ups. Clegg reacted well, but the damage was already done.

And then his closing statement was much the stronger. Authoritative, stern, clear. He lost points for being caught out frowning too often, but it doesn’t seem to matter any more. He looked a bit greasy too, sometimes a bit too smooth with the way he tried to charm the questioner. I didn’t like it, but it doesn’t wash with me. I think the electorate will.

Gordon Brown, I thought, actually had a decent debate. He was his usual self, bashing through the numbers, playing the experience card time and time again. He should have said “this is no time for a novice” because it would have been appropriate. But he didn’t. He looked very edgy at the beginning, but warmed up, and delivered his worst to Nick Clegg largely by ignoring him.

Brown’s focus was broadly on David Cameron and the “same old Tories”. It, and the inheritance tax line, is his strongest suit. He did his damn hardest to play it. He made the point time and time again, even if it was totally tangential to the question. He’s certainly been trained well.

But it’s too late for him. The electorate has no empathy for him. The few left that do are all Labour supporters anyway.

Overall though, it was quite a boring debate, despite it being the most lively of them all in terms of attack. But maybe that’s what made it boring. It was all too much like the same old politics. Not like the first one, when Clegg looked fresh, new and took the other two apart for being stuck in the past.

Should it be repeated at the next election? Most definitely. It was long overdue, and has reinvigorated political debate in this country. It was filled with substance and character. It needs a little revision, and I just wish the media would reflect the actual content of the debate as well as who “won” it, but it has, broadly, given the politicians a more direct chance to engage with the electorate.

For today though, there was only one winner, and that was David Cameron. A Tory majority is now very much back on the cards.

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Cameron Senses The Danger

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 27, 2010 @ 09:00

I've always been a bit suspicious about those wet liberals, to be honest. Now I know why.

Isn’t it funny how the Conservatives have been put on the run by the Lib Dems, of all people…

The Lib Dems, their most hated enemy. And yet, there was Cameron all those years ago calling himself a liberal Conservative. Oh no, that was the other day. And then there was the guff of libdems4cameron.com which soon got forgotten and turned into a link to their normal website.

All it took was just one little debate.

But the Tories aren’t stupid. They hastily rewrote and re-shot last week’s Party Election Broadcast. Then there was the second debate, in which all of his fire was largely directed at the Lib Dems (not Nick in particular though, and why would you attack someone with a net +50% approval rating?). And now a whole day of coverage about how the choice is between a Tory majority and a hung parliament.

Cameron’s argument that we should choose a majority for him because “the pound will fall” is hardly going to set the world alight. Apart from it being economically illiterate (the pound has already fallen, providing a huge boost to UK exports) it is utterly tedious and seems to imply that our votes should only be motivated by utterly dry numbers that are meaningless to the everyday lives of the electorate.

He’s also, if the polls are to be believed, fighting a losing battle. Not that people can actually vote for a hung parliament, but there is mounting evidence to suggest that people like the idea. Whether it’s Lib Dems who have dreamed of nothing other than it, or Labour voters sensing their only chance of rescuing this one out of the fire, or other and nonpartisan voters who just want to see something different, there is a genuine desire to see a new political culture after the 2010 election.

And again, that’s why Cameron senses the danger. If the unthinkable happens, and the Lib Dems do manage to exact major political reform (electoral and other constitutional changes) it will permanently change British politics. Never again will a party enjoy untrammelled power, courtesy of landslide results on small proportions of voters.

The Tories would miss that dearly. Cameron and Osborne want that all to themselves. They would dearly love a 40% vote that gives them 100% of the power. That’s what Thatcher and Blair got. Why not them?

The irony of all this is that in the meantime, there is actually still a sitting Prime Minister and a Labour party that still could do serious damage if it’s ignored. You’d be forgiven for thinking that they don’t exist, but they still do…

Can Cameron battle effectively on two fronts? Clegg/Cable on one, Mandelson on the other…

I’ll bet that was never part of their electoral strategy.

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Paxman v Cameron

Posted by The Futility Monster on April 23, 2010 @ 21:41

Shamelessly stolen from elsewhere. The Twitterati loved this yesterday.

Having just finished watching Paxman’s little chat with David Cameron, I thought I’d put out some observations.

First of all, Cameron would not have been doing the Paxman interview were it not for the fact that the election is so close, courtesy of the momentum gained by the Liberal Democrats. After all, Clegg did his interview nearly two weeks ago, at the end of which Paxman only expressed a “hope” that there would soon be interviews with Brown and Cameron.

But he did it, and to be honest, I’m not really sure why he wouldn’t have wanted to do it. Cameron generally does well in interviews like this. He doesn’t get flustered by Paxman’s attacks, and you can see his brain whirring as he processes through his focus grouped soundbites to get the most appropriate one in. He generally gets it spot on.

Paxman tried his best to flummox Cameron, and his best shot was on the issue of equality, namely because Paxman did what he always does: highlight inconsistencies. Though David Cameron is a mere 43 years old, he is a career politician, and has nearly 20 years of record to trawl through.

And trawled through it was. Cameron insisted that he had always been interested in the issue of equality, in spite of all evidence to the contrary during the fun of the 80s and early 90s. He distanced himself from Thatcher by continually drumming home his “big society” theme. It’s remarkable how he only brings this topic up though in interviews or press conferences, while in the debates it gets the briefest mention…

He never looked particularly evasive though. He did his best honest guy face, and I think he pulled it off. Paxman’s sneering is sometimes self-defeating, however, and when the politician being grilled hits back with a zinger of their own, as Cameron continued to do when attacking Gordon Brown’s wrecked economy, you almost forget for a second that you’re cheering the wrong guy. Almost.

Other topics covered were the bizarre inheritance tax plan, whether Cameron has an ideological desire to cut the public sector (he claims not to, but he’s a Tory), abortion, and the pathetic plans for transferring tax allowances between married couples. He had numbers, had his arguments, and made a good account of himself.

The part that most media are picking up was his inability to give a Sherman pledge regarding “plans” not to rise VAT in an emergency Budget. It was a typical politician’s reply, in truth, so it doesn’t really deserve the response it’s getting. Neither is the question of whether he’d work with the Lib Dems in a hung parliament. We expect our politicians to tell little white lies to further their own agendas. We accept it, with a nod and a wink, and get on with it. You’ll see.

Overall, it was Cameron being Cameron. He got his fair crack of the whip, he didn’t get ganged up on, he didn’t get shown up by a young pretender. He dictated how he was going to reply to each question, and came across very smoothly.

The Cameron that, until 10 days ago, was going to achieve a modest but very decent victory, in other words.

The Conservatives would do well to keep him at this kind of level.

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