David Cameron’s self-confidence is a trait much commented upon by those who see him close up. Given the sheer scale of issues a PM has to deal with, and the relentlessness of the pressure, it is no bad thing that he possesses it in plenty.
But it is not a good quality if it crosses the barrier to a sense of entitlement, or arrogance. There is a danger of that happening in relation to two very important parts of our national life – the military, and the police.
Cameron is adamant that both have to face cuts. When it suits him, he makes this part of his deficit reduction argument. But he also makes the point that both can cope perfectly well with the cuts proposed, and feigns perplexity that anyone could see things differently.
Put to one side the fact that he so ruthlessly exploited in Opposition any suggestion that the then government was not giving the military everything it needed for the wars in Iraq and especially, as an election neared, in Afghanistan. With regard both to the police and the military, he exudes the sense that, frankly, he knows best.
I still think that his line re the military – ‘you do the fighting and I’ll do the talking’ -was a pretty shocking thing to say. I cannot imagine a Labour PM, or indeed any recent Tory PM – saying such a thing. I think he will come to regret it. Likewise he seems to be giving the police the message that they screwed up in their early handling of the riots, which given morale is already pretty low thanks to pay and pensions issues, phone hacking and the G20 policing row, will not go down a bundle.
There are many groups of people it is better to have onside than offside for a government. The police and the military are high up the list. The PM should take a bit more care with them.