confronted with someone who says they’re thinking of voting Tory, I ask them to
name three things David Cameron would do as Prime Minister? Even with people
who follow politics closely, it tends to pull them up. Those who are desperate
to say something in Dave’s defence then fall back on generalities – smaller
State, compassionate conservatism (remember that) or they talk about his
efforts to get a wind turbine on his roof.
Committed Tories I know tend to say that Cameron is modelling his
Opposition on Tony Blair’s. But by this stage of his leadership, TB had not
only made significant cultural and constitutional change to the Labour Party,
he also had a large part of a manifesto for government in place. There was no
shortage of policy which is why the Tories attacked it so hard – you remember,
the minimum wage would cost a million jobs, the New Deal was unworkable and
illegal, Scots didn’t want their own Parliament. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
But there is something else about Cameron. Not only does
he do nothing that really connects with the public, sufficient for them to be
able to say that a Tory government could make a difference for the better, but
he says nothing memorable either.
I listened to PMQs on the radio yesterday. What with the economy,
jobless figures, Ed Balls and his depression, banks and bankers, James Crosby
resigning, it was about as good a wicket as Cameron could hope for. But here we
are, not long after, and I can’t remember a single thing he said. His
communications, like his leadership, is very day to day. There was an
interesting little throwaway remark from GB yesterday, who pointed out that
Cameron used to be interested in the environment. And I thought, yes, he did,
whatever happened to that?
On one level, looking at the economic and
political landscape, Cameron has so much going for him. But he is failing to
connect and cut through. In the absence of any real sense of strategy and
purpose, is it any wonder that all anyone will remember of Cameron yesterday is
that four minutes after PMQs ended, someone with an internet account at Tory HQ
falsely edited a Wikipedia entry on Titian to try to cover up a factual error
made by DC.
There is another Tory-Labour difference to be drawn here. If that had been us,
the papers, TV and radio would have gone on about it for days, until the full
story was dragged out.
If the media put a tenth as much pressure and scrutiny on the Tories as they
did on Labour in Opposition, the mood around Dave would be very different.
The Tories say it was ‘an
over-eager member of staff’ who doctored the Wikipedia entry. Who? Was it Andy
Coulson, Dave’s comms man? Or was it Cameron himself? After all, he has very
little else to do judging by the policy vacuum and the lack of anything said or
done which stays in the public mind more than a few minutes.