I promise that
my tweet of last night – wondering whether David Cameron as Prime Minister
could have delivered the G20 deal – was not merely rhetorical.
If the polls are right, and don’t change some time soon, then Cameron may be the next PM, suddenly dealing with global economic issues, war and a
planet in peril.
So it is a question requiring serious thought.
When Barack Obama was
elected, the Tories tried to run the line that the real lesson for Britain was
the power of the ‘time for a change’ argument.
What recent weeks and months have shown is that the real stuff of politics is
substance and policy, not style and image.
I have always acknowledged that
Cameron is perfectly good at the latter. But the G20 has shown once more his
weakness on the former.
I know from our days in Opposition that it is never easy when a big
international event involving Presidents and Prime Ministers is dominating the
global agenda. You can get in only at the margins.
But when you do get in, it is worth having something to say. It is not that
you have to pretend to be the Government, but you do have to have an analysis
and give some indication as to what you would do.
And because you can only get in at the margins, you have to have considerable
clarity about what it is that you are saying.
So ask yourself – what message, if any, have you heard from David Cameron
before, during and since the G20?
There will be different responses, but
mine would be ‘nah nah nah nah nah.’
As the crisis developed, he had no analysis other than that it was a crisis.
As Gordon Brown took some very hefty decisions, particularly in relation to the
banks, Cameron was on hand to say they wouldn’t work. By now their general line
was emerging as a political one – to try to present anything bad in the economy
as a particularly British problem.
As Gordon Brown forced the pace on setting up the G20, and scoping out its
agenda, the Tories’ analysis was all about the PM, not the economic future of
And if some of the world leaders gathered in London picked up on Cameron’s
tone, it would not be the best possible start for his relations with them. He
seemed to see the whole thing as a bit of too little too late jamboree.
So then we come to his reaction last night – a melange of limited welcome for
changes he would never have been able to secure, something about Doha (I think
he felt if he threw out a name of a foreign city, he would acquire gravitas –
it could just as easily have been Copenhagen) and then his big message – it’s
all very well for GB to secure more money for the IMF to help weaker economies,
but now it is time he turned his attention to Britain.
But surely if recent
weeks have shown anything it is the inter-connectedness of our economies, and
if there is one success above all for which Gordon deserves credit it is in
turning that reality into an event of real substance and change.
Playing ‘what if?’ is not an exact science,
but if Cameron’s isolationist and laissez-faire ideals had already secured
power, it is doubtful he would have been able to organise a meeting like the
one we’ve just had, let alone steer it to a decent conclusion.
In acting as he has in recent weeks,
flying round the world, never off the phone, despatching officials left, right
and centre to try to assess the best possible outcome and then work towards it,
Gordon HAS been focussing on the British economy. Because without the global
economy reviving, nor will ours.
Time to revive ‘no time for a novice.’ Because in this case, it is true. DC is
no Obama. I’m beginning to wonder if he is even William Hague.