Thursday, 22 March 2007

Cameron - Thoughts

I was looking back at earlier posts and I was surprised to see so many posts taken over by my thoughts of Tony Blair. How sad I am that I should spend so much time criticising Blair, his actions and his government. I really should move on and I think I shall – for tonight at least – and so I shall look at David Cameron.

I should make clear that whatever happens I shall NOT be voting Tory because Cameron will move further and faster than Blair.

Cameron has been very clever. Unlike his immediate predecessors he learned the lesson of New Labour and has re-occupied the centre ground. Howard, Duncan-Smith and Hague all moved away from Blair into the right-most right wing. How easy they made the elections for Blair. The increasing shift rightwards left voters – happiest in the middle ground with no chance of voting Tory. Easy for Tony.

But Blair wasn’t really occupying the middle ground he had moved to the right and taken British politics rightwards too and this was the opportunity which Cameron needed. He could move the Conservatives leftwards into this new middle ground and sit on the same territory as Blair and be happy that he had Tory policies because Blair’s policies were essentially Tory. In fact, Cameron, went even further: he moved to the left of Blair and still had Tory policies.

Another outcome of occupying the same space as Blair is that criticising Labour policies becomes more difficult the closer Cameron is to them but he has to do something and he has two options: he can support Labour proposals when it suits him – to Blair’s embarrassment – and he can assume a reasonable and constructive tone rather than a critical one. He wins with either approach and then appears as a potential winner and potential PM.

Cameron is not invincible though: there are vulnerabilities. Yesterday’s debate, following on from the Budget, highlighted several: lack of detailed preparation, of intellectual rigour, over-reliance on jokes, and on his easy personality. Whatever else he may be Cameron is not a parliamentary heavyweight and even the comfortable and comforting poll leads may not be enough to sustain him.

Detailed policies – he needs those. Without them he can make general noises about detail and still have the freedom to attack Labour but soon lack of policies will leave him open to damaging criticism: that he is a lightweight TV performer without the ability to put together a detailed programme for government. With them, he is open to attack on the policies for being too right-wing. Yes, he’ll have plenty opportunities to attack Labour and he will attack them well but he will be under pressure for the first time.

Cameron reminds me of the presenters on CBBC – lightweight, flighty, flimsy, lacking seriousness and depth. Whatever one might say about Blair and Brown – and I have plenty to say sometime – they are at the top of their professions in mainstream TV with massive experience.

Rather like Blair, Cameron has had an extended honeymoon but if he doesn’t find some gravitas somewhere Brown will get him.

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