Monday, June 18, 2007

'In their panic, the discombobulated Cameroons are ricocheting around the political landscape...'

When I was reporting on Cameron's Grammar Wars for the umpteenth time last week, it was suggested I was flogging a dead horse...well, yesterday David Davis revived the corpse - and today's attack on Cameron's weak leadership in the Daily Mail proves the issue is far from glue yet.

Here's just an extract from Melanie Phillips' column in the Tory's favourite paper:

No longer do the Tories perform relatively sedate U-turns; they are currently careering round one hairpin bend after another.

At breakfast time yesterday, we were startled to learn that the Tories would - bafflingly - reintroduce entrance charges for museums. By teatime, that policy had been abruptly and brutally ditched.

We also heard yesterday that David Cameron did not claim to be the 'heir to Blair'. This was yet more news to us. After all, Mr Cameron himself had reportedly said it.

Fewer than three weeks ago his deputy, George Osborne, declared that Mr Cameron championed Blairite reforms in education and health.

So why such screeching reversals? Simply, the Tories are now in panic-stricken disarray.

The past month has been a disaster for them...

...Then came 'grammargate'. At first, Mr Cameron unwisely dismissed the furore over David Willetts's speech denouncing academically selective schools...

...The debacle has produced a dwindling opinion poll lead for Mr Cameron. Gordon Brown is seen as more dependable - and he hasn't even yet joined battle with Mr Cameron across the Despatch Box. '

In their panic, the discombobulated Cameroons are ricocheting around the political landscape.

With the grammar school row still raging...David Davis and William Hague have been dispatched on a desperate 'Save Dave' mission to the Tory grassroots, with the message that Mr Cameron is not the 'heir to Blair' but instead the standard bearer of - ermm, well, there's the problem.

For what precisely does he stand for? State or market? Top down or bottom up? Meritocracy or egalitarianism? Left or right?

At present, it seems to be 'all of the above'. Hence his audacious attempt today to steal Gordon Brown's clothes by claiming that the Tories are the true progressives because they are best-placed to tackle poverty and protect the environment.

Yet Mr Cameron's short-lived policy of re-introducing museum charges was obviously going to hit the very poor that he is ostensibly championing...

...What a leader stands for is almost secondary to the issue of trust.
When voters mutter to each other about a party leader "Say what you like about what he believes, at least you know where you stand with him", the electoral battle is all but won.

Try saying that, first about Mr Cameron and then about Mr Brown.

Damaging stuff any day of the week. But the fact that it's the Daily Mail is devastating for Cameron...

His honeymoon is clearly over. Gordon Brown's hasn't even started yet.


Anonymous said...

If the combatively right wing Melanie Phillips disapproves of middle of the road drip Dave Cameron, then by any reckoning that's a badge of honour for posh voice Dave Cameron.

Getting a verbal lashing from sane Mel is something to be proud of whether you have earned it or not.

Anonymous said...

Like I have always said the Conservatives have always won on the centre ground which is why DC is on centre ground.

Labour are moving to the left and have any right to panic like you Phil.

Anonymous said...

Yes because the Daily Mail have been really big supporters of Project Dave after all(!).

fairdealphil said...


i think we can agree about who holds the centre ground wins.

interesting u-gov poll for C4 last night shows that Tories still seen as right wing and that Labour still holding the centre.

who'se panicking...well, Grammar Wars and Museum Charges plus u-turns and Cameron's 'Save Dave' relaunch yesterday answered that one...!

more 'policy' on the hoof, more pandering to the Cornerstone right "a grammar stream in every school" etc...

as one honeymoon ends, another begins.

Anonymous said...

You get a firm grip of those straws Phil.

And no apostrophy in whose.

Anonymous said...

How can our policies be on the hoof when they took over two years to put in place?

If certain individuals and MP's on the right towed the party line instead of speaking out maybe we could be seen as a party on the centre ground.

But so long as you have the right wing of the Conservative Party banging on just like the left wing of Labour did under Kinnock people perceive you differently just like they did Kinnock in 1992 and at the end of the day it comes down to trust.

Which is what will make the next election as interesting as it may be.

How far to the left will Labour go under Brown?

Can Cameron capture the centre ground for good?

fairdealphil said...


did it really take two years to come up with Cameron's 'policy' of 'no more Grammars', er, except in some places.

or going back to museum charges - as you say withdrawn on the same day it was announced...

fully agree with you on trust, perception and kinnock...

there's no doubt Labour lurched left after defeat in 1979, and the Tories lurched right after defeat in 1997.

Kinnock started dragging Labour towards the centre ground and eventual Government.

Cameron may be the Conservative's Kinnock, but as shown by last night's C4 poll, his party is still perceived as far right.

Anonymous said...

Somebody once ridiculed me for saying that Cameron was "Kinnock with hair."

I could be proven right.

fairdealphil said...


lol, as long as they don't call him the Welsh windbag, he'll be ok..

Cameron talks a good game, but personally, i could listen to Neil Kinnock all day...

A wonderful orator - most memorable for me was his 'don't be old if Mrs T wins again' eve of poll speech at Bridgend Leisure Centre, which was effectively his Labour Leadership launch...

Labour owes much to Kinnock for taking on the hard left Militant nutters who infiltrated and almost destroyed the Labour Party.

Kinnock started the much needed changes and party reform firmly embraced the late John Smith and by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

If i might say so Geoffrey, Cameron may be the first Tory Leader since Thatcher to recognise that the same old right wing tunes in the 21st Century make the Tories as unelectable as Labour was in the eighties.

What he doesn't have is a united party behind him, nor, in my view, more fundamentally, a set of values on which to build.

But as you rightly recognise, the hard-right Tories have no desire for change.

Bear in mind, over 90 per cent of Labour Party members voting in the Clause 4 ballot supported Blair's proposal to scrap it...

It took many many years of change before our Party reached that stage...