David Cameron is presiding over one of the most radical Conservative governments ever with its assault on social services and the role of the state in general – and yet he himself doesn’t seem to have any strong views. Unlike the Thatcher years (can you remember them? Yes, me too) the position of the Prime Minister on any matter of importance is rather unclear. Whereas Thatcher was a straight-talking scientist Cameron spent nearly seven years in public relations.
This is why Cameron feels, it seems, happy talking about the ‘greenest government ever‘ one minute and ‘cutting the green crap‘ another; why he can promise ‘The guarantee I can give you is a decision will be made by the end of the year’ and then in December put off a decision on Heathrow for a further six months; why he can make a speech where he warns that he may take the UK out of the EU one day and another saying that this would risk the UK’s national security two days later; and he can say the right thing in climate change talks in Paris and let George Osborne cut renewable energy support here at home.
Most Prime Ministers have believed in something, sometimes the wrong things, but the more time we spend with David Cameron, the less convincing he appears. But he is an excellent front-man for those in the Conservative Party who do believe in something. Cameron can say the right thing, the reassuring thing, any time you like (with a bit of preparation) and won’t blush when contradicting his previous utterances.
But I wonder, when the time comes, how will Osborne et al. cope without him.
I can see why many are inclined to disbelieve anything any politician says, and this isn’t something which started with Cameron of course (but it certainly hasn’t ended with him either), but it is a partial explanation for why the Paris climate talks’ reception was at best lukewarm. ‘They might have said it, but will they do it?’ seemed to be a large part of the response from the public and the experts. Look at the comments on the blog I wrote after the Paris talks ended with a half-decent agreement and see the tenor of the reception from readers of this blog. Hardly ‘Let joy be unconfined!’ were they?
When the public don’t believe politicians, and don’t trust their motives, then democracy is in trouble. And that’s particularly true for those who want to change the world – people lose hope and stop trying.
I know this isn’t a particularly novel view of things, but it’s been brought more strongly home to me recently so I thought I’d spit it out.