Perth in Western Australia is a lovely place, but I suspect David Cameron wishes the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting could have been held in the equally lovely Scottish namesake. No matter how wonderful Australia may be, it is a long long way away, and the PM was unsurprisingly looking a bit tired I thought.
You only have to measure the column inches ratio of his earlier summit on the eurozone crisis to realise that the Commonwealth as an organisation is now much less relevant to British life than the EU – another reason eurosceptics dislike Europe.
But Cameron rather played into that idea. Look at the three things that seem to have characterised his presence there. One, the debate about Royal succession, and the agreement that if Prince William’s first child is a girl, she should become Queen ahead of any second-born male. All fine and modernising, as is the decision to remove the anti-Catholic bias in the rules of succession – but not something that fundamentally changes the lives of Commonwealth citizens in the way that the eurozone crisis management does.
Second, there was Mr Cameron’s observation that if there were more women in City boardrooms, top pay would be lower. I imagine this was one of those stories that emerged from a back of the plane chat with the travelling press pack, who would have been worrying that the CHOGM ceremonials were not going to fill the space needed to justify the 24 hour flights and fares. It may even have been planned. Mr Cameron was bound to be asked about the report showing continuing soaring pay levels for the rich. This was a way of getting him into that story without actually condemning those who were taking huge pay rises at a time of austerity for others. It may also have been thought by his advisers to have been a way of ‘connecting with women’, who seemingly find the PM much less convincing than men do.
But were I a businesswoman, the message I would get is not that he sees us as being more pragmatic, sensible and selfless, but that he assumes we would settle for less, because deep down that is what men of his ilk think women should do.
Third, we had his declaration that the so-called working class honour, the British Empire Medal, should be reinstated. Poor old John Major – he didn’t make many changes to the world, and here is one he did make, when the ‘classless society’ was his big thing, and along comes Cameron to bring it back as a way of reviving his stalling Big Society plans.
So Royal changes, an at best ambiguous suggestion re women, and a tinkering with the honours system – it was a long way to go for that. Perhaps the flight home will at least help reduce his sleep deficit.