With his Big Society still no clearer now than it was when he first coined the phrase to distance himself from Mrs Thatcher, with his NHS reforms now so confused that he may have to start the legislative process all over again, David Cameron continues to do a good job at keeping secret from people any really clear political identity.
The problem with his Big Society is that it was a tactical ploy to aid the so-called detoxification of the Tory brand, rather than a thought through strategy. Maggie said no such thing as Society. Dave says yes there is, and it’s Big, but it is not the same thing as the State.
But in survey upon survey, citizens of the Big Society make clear their view that it is in effect a cover for cuts. As the cuts begin to bite in earnest, and as the charitable and voluntary sector struggle to pick up the pieces, that view will harden.
Labour had active policies to strengten communities. Cameron’s Year Zero government has put an end to many of them, and put a slogan in their place.
Today’s is his fourth big speech aimed at giving life to the one political concept for which he has managed to build awareness if not comprehension. But it is destined to fail again without clear signs of how policy can make a difference. Cabinet ministers volunteering for a day a year doesn’t do it.
With Barack Obama in town this week, he will get something of a respite from domestic issues, and the US President remains enough of a political star for the visit to be a guaranteed success for both of them.
Another bonus he has is that the press continue to want to give Cameron the benefit of any doubt, and Ed Miliband none. They got another little reward this morning when he took their side in the argument over superinjunctions.
It is interesting to note the difference between the zeal with which the papers are fighting for their rights to name footballers who stray from the marital bed, and the complete disinterest – The Guardian excepted – in pursuing stories of systematic criminal activity by their own profession.
Cameron may feel tactically sound in focusing likewise on one rather than the other. But if he were truly to assess the seriousness of both sets of circumstances, he would surely conclude that the second is more important, and worthy of his attention, than the first. That’s why it will not go away as quickly as the phoney furore over the footballer will.