Greetings from Tirana, a quick day trip respite from the UK election campaign, to see how one of my favourite progressive leaders, Edi Rama, is getting on.
I have worked with Rama for several years, first in opposition and now in government, a landslide win for his Socialist Party having seen him installed as Prime Minister. He is also the only current PM or President to have played international sport, as a basketball player, hence his inclusion on teamship in that book I occasionally plug, WINNERS AND HOW THEY SUCCEED.
David Cameron is in the book but not on the cover with the winners. He is in the chapter on strategy as a very good example of a leader who has never really had one and probably wouldn’t know one if it hit him. One of the reasons I like Rama is he gets strategy. The same goes for Tony Blair (one of Rama’s political idols) and Bill Clinton.
I write about Cameron as a strategic butterfly who flits from one phoney passion to another, one tiny big idea to the next, but always driven in fact by tactical considerations and always, if the tactics don’t work, looking for another one.
Just a few weeks ago the Tory strategy was reasonably clear, founded on two planks. The economy and leadership. They knew there was some decent economic data coming down the track. And they had polls galore and mountains of media coverage saying Cameron was more Prime Ministerial than Ed Miliband.
But one of the lessons in WINNERS is never to confuse polls with reality and never to believe your own propaganda to the suspension of your own judgement. For some time polls have said ‘if there was an election tomorrow how would you vote?’ There is only one answer to that – there isn’t one tomorrow, not until May 6 comes.
Then there is the old ‘who do you consider to look more like a Prime Minister – Cameron or Miliband?’ Well let me tell you it is easier to look like a PM if you ARE a PM even if you have never actually won an election.
But what has happened to both of the above is that the ‘tomorrow’ in the poll question is getting nearer. And the question about Prime Ministerial qualities is getting more urgent as May 7 nears. So the undecideds have started to engage more than usual and reflect more than usual.
So what millions are beginning to feel and see is this – 1. This economic miracle Cameron keeps blathering on about doesn’t feel like it to me and my family. So they can only assume Cameron and Osborne are on about their own worlds, not that of the electorate. 2, freed from the prism of a totally biased, hostile, ridiculous right-wing press who hate Ed for being Labour, and hate him even more for his stance on Leveson and press standards, he is emerging in a different light, closer to the reality of those who know him.
This is also adding to the sense, Miliband having survived such an onslaught, that he has the calm and resilience needed for the top job, qualities I understand Cameron did not appear to have on display on TV this morning.
I did not see the Marr show, I was on the flight here, but twitter has given me a pretty good impression of a pretty bad interview. It seems to have echoed the point I made a while back, that psychologically he is campaigning like a loser not a winner. The Green Party do not expect to be the government. So they spray around spending commitments. But that kind of stuff gets judged more harshly when it is a prospective party of government that does it.
Also, his obsession with asserting a Labour-SNP coalition is on the cards shows he has lost in his mind. He has given up on a majority. And he is displaying a remarkable lack of awareness of self or irony in failing to see that Miliband’s ruling out a Lab-SNP coalition stands in stark contrast with his own failure to rule out such a coalition with UKIP, a party he has previously dismissed as a bunch of extremists and fruitcakes.
As for a positive, hopeful, optimistic vision of a better future, if a Tory candidate had to write it down, what would they say? They don’t have one.
Cameron is becoming more and more desperate. So is Lynton Crosby who, if he was on performance related pay, would be scrabbling around to raise the cash for a budget flight back to Australia.
I will be on a flight back to London in the morning, and doing whatever I can to help Labour win, and help see the back of a Prime Minister who couldn’t win in 2010, when the playing field was nicely rolled for him, and doesn’t look like winning now.
Bill Clinton told Tony Blair you need to show more zeal and hunger for a second term win than a first, because when you have power, people assume you will take it for granted. Cameron is showing little zeal or hunger, no vision, and so is reduced to scaremongering about a Labour leader for whom he has shown contempt over five years, and talking up a Scottish leader who exists to break up the Union in which the Conservative and Unionist Party is supposed passionately to believe.
Cameron does not deserve to win. He is fighting this election as though it is frankly an irritation that he has to defend himself to the public. He is fighting it with a sense of growing anger that he could possibly be beaten by a man he has so consistently dismissed as a lightweight incapable of persuading the country he could be a Prime Minister. But in this, as in so much else, his arrogance and his belief in his right to rule are reaping a heavy cost for him. Because it looks like he could be wrong.
Miliband meanwhile looks like he has found his voice, found his energy, and is enjoying proving people wrong. More important than that, he is giving hope to people that this wretched government will not be around much longer, and that we need not have another five years of this.
…. Ps I hope you will forgive me this nepotistic act … My son Rory and I are in the Relative Values column in the Sunday Times today. Not only is he a brilliant son who helped me with WINNERS, but he is also a good runner, and has won a place in the elite field for the London Marathon next Sunday. He is running to raise money for my best friend and fellow Labour strategist, Philip Gould. This is the first campaign I have ever worked on without Philip, since his death from oesophageal cancer, so please give generously to Rory’s fund. He is accepting performance related sponsorship. The link to sponsor him is here Thanks