I can’t help thinking that if Tony Blair or Gordon Brown were Prime Minister, there would by now have been a media and/or political outcry about their seeming lack of interest or involvement in the weather situation.
You have to have a lot of qualities to get to be PM, and even more to stay there, and David Cameron clearly has the quality of managing to stay above the fray. So it was Nick Clegg who got it in the neck for tuition fees, local authorities who will cop it for cuts to council services, George Osborne who is making a few headlines for failing to get back from New York for a meeting with the banks, and Transport Secretary Philip Hammond who is leading the government handling of the snow. Mr Cameron could be sunning himself on an Australian beach for all anyone in the UK has heard of him.
Mr Hammond strikes a good tone, and perhaps his dominance on the issue reflects Mr Cameron’s faith in him. Nothing wrong with that. But up in Scotland, Alex Salmond was forced to get out there and defend his handling of the response, and lost a minister in the process. Mr Cameron really does have a knack of staying right out of things when they get a bit tricky. I wonder if in his head, he isn’t more Head of State than Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, I support the edict from Ed Miliband’s office that Labour politicians should emphasise the Conservative-led nature of the government. As I have said before, it suits Cameron’s purpose to have his junior partner, Nick Clegg, take so much of the flak, and whilst Clegg and the Lib Dems are an attractive target, this is a Tory government pursuing Tory policies.
Cameron’s habit for avoiding the dirty stuff appears to be dictating his approach to the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, where he is indicating that he does not want to see the Lib Dems too badly damaged. It is hard not to feel a bit sorry for the Tory candidate – just a bit – to have his leader undermine him as the campaign gets underway.
But it is all in keeping with this approach that removes him from the fray. If the Tories do badly, it will be nothing to do with him; if the Lib Dems do get wiped out, he will be able to say well, he tried to help them, but what can a chap do? All very odd.