Like it or not, Cameron is a born leader

The psy­chic shape of the House shifted from a twoand-a-half-party sys­tem, which had ruled for more than two and a half decades, back to the old bi­nary no­ta­tion of the 1960s.

The Pak Banker - - Editorial5 - John Ren­toul

There has been some­thing missing for the past seven months, and I have just worked out what it is. It is the sen­sa­tion of sur­prise. It was there, very briefly, in the days af­ter 11 May, when it was said on the ra­dio, for ex­am­ple, that the Prime Min­is­ter was do­ing some­thing with Nick Clegg and one won­dered why Gor­don Brown should be hang­ing out with the leader of the Lib­eral Democrats. But it faded fast, and what was strik­ing was how quickly we be­came used to David Cameron in No 10.

There was a tin­gle of nov­elty that lasted for months about the coali­tion, al­though that may have been more of a West­min­ster thing, as there were MPs from two par­ties on the govern­ment side of the Com­mons cham­ber. The psy­chic shape of the House shifted from a two-and-a-half-party sys­tem, which had ruled for more than two and a half decades, back to the old bi­nary no­ta­tion of the 1960s. There is a Govern­ment and an Op­po­si­tion and, for a while at least, a mental pause af­ter Harriet Harman asked her six ques­tions as MPs turned to look for Clegg to ask his two, and then re­alised that he was sit­ting, mute, next to the Prime Min­is­ter. That nov­elty changed to some­thing more threat­en­ing in the past few weeks as a large part of Lib­eral Demo­crat opin­ion de­cided it had been be­trayed and its youth wing took to the streets. "But that's the real world for you," as Clegg tells next month's Prospect mag­a­zine. And above it all floats Cameron. He has fit­ted so eas­ily into the role that you might think he had gone to a spe­cial school where they train young men to be prime min­is­ters. In op­po­si­tion, it was a mi­nor part of Cameron's claim to the top job that he looked the part. But the moment he got the job, his ef­fort­less as­sump­tion of author­ity wiped out any doubts about his party's fail­ure to win a ma­jor­ity of seats. Where Gor­don Brown, with a stronger con­sti­tu­tional claim, en­dured three years of carp­ing about the man­ner by which he came by the of­fice, no sur­prise at­tends Cameron's ten­ure.

Cameron has taken to the busi­ness of for­eign trips and in­ter­na­tional sum­mitry as if Eton had role-play­ing work­shops in chat­ting to Chi­nese dig­ni­taries. He has turned out to be a prag­matic, pre-Thatcherite Con­ser­va­tive in his deal­ings with Euro­pean lead­ers. He was in Brus­sels last week, stitch­ing to­gether a " con­ser­va­tive" deal with An­gela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy to freeze the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion bud­get in real terms. At home, he has shown a sure touch, ap­pear­ing to be the chair­man of a col­le­giate govern­ment - one which has the ad­van­tage of del­e­gat­ing the un­pop­u­lar­ity of tu­ition fees to the Lib­eral Democrats - while step­ping in to ex­er­cise su­pe­rior power if is­sues threaten to get out of hand. Hence the "Cameron takes charge of school sports" sto­ries last week.

It was John Reid, Labour for­mer home sec­re­tary, who said last week: "He is a bet­ter prime min­is­ter than he was leader of the op­po­si­tion. If he had been as suc­cess­ful as leader of the op­po­si­tion as he now is as prime min­is­ter, and as as­tute, then the Tories would have an over­all ma­jor­ity."

Cameron has two out­stand­ing qualifications for be­ing a suc­cess­ful prime min­is­ter. One is that his con­vic­tions are adapt­able; the other is that he is very po­lite. He is even more po­lite than Tony Blair, who de­ployed cour­tesy as a po­lit­i­cal weapon to long and deadly ef­fect. When fe­male Labour MPs ask Cameron ques­tions in the Com­mons, for in­stance, he al­ways thanks them for rais­ing a very im­por­tant sub­ject and agrees with them - some­times even when they are at­tack­ing govern­ment pol­icy.

Dead­lier still, though, might be Cameron's ide­o­log­i­cal flex­i­bil­ity. Yes, he's a Con­ser­va­tive, but he wel­comed a coali­tion with a mi­nor party, much of the rhetoric of which has sounded as if it were to the left of Labour, with­out any pub­lic awk­ward­ness. Al­though in pri­vate he sees an ex­ple­tive-filled "car crash" com­ing on the de­ten­tion of ter­ror­ist sus­pects, his tem­per­a­ment re­mains jovial and he jokes about hav­ing more trou­ble with Ken­neth Clarke than with the Lib Dems over civil lib­er­ties. Those qual­i­ties of up­bring­ing and tem­per­a­ment, I sus­pect, will see him through. Polly Toyn­bee, in The Guardian last week, set out the Labour op­ti­mist's sce­nario: Clegg has de­stroyed his rep­u­ta­tion by tu­ition fees; Cameron will be­come un­pop­u­lar when the cuts bite. She sees a "red car­pet of op­por­tu­nity stretch­ing out" in front of Ed Miliband from here to the elec­tion. Well, she is three-quar­ters right. Clegg has cer­tainly suf­fered se­ri­ous dam­age, and his party will find it hard to re­cover even if it re­places him with Chris "Clean Hands" Huhne be­fore the elec­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.