What’s it like to be David Cameron? Should one feel, on a purely human level, just a little sorry for him when nasty Lord Ashcroft and paid assassin Isobel Oakshott spread unpleasant porcine tales about his youth. As with the exposure of the Rebekah Brooks texts which revealed Cameron’s gauche misuse of ‘LOL’, it cannot be nice to have the nation laughing at you.
Yet I very much doubt he gives a toss. Why would he? He’s the Prime Minister. He’s a Very Important Person. And the rest of us with our pathetic little Twitterstorms are scarcely worth a second thought, unless he’s gaming us for votes, and anyway, he has staff for that.
So I write this very much aware of my own insignificance to the political world of which Cameron is master. I know he’s not going to know, or care, what I think. And I think he’s the worst prime minister of my lifetime.
Cameron is known to admire Tony Blair, and to have modelled his approach to leadership upon aspects of Blairism. But Blair, before he developed his Messiah Complex, was a subtle and intelligent leader. I never fell under his spell – I cried when John Smith died, but Blair worried me from the first. Nonetheless, he was, in his pre-war prime, a class act. Blair had a sense of absolute clarity about what he wanted to achieve.
Cameron, on the other hand, is clear about one thing only. He wanted to be Prime Minister. Not to do specific things, still less to ‘run the country’ in any kind of hands-on way. Now he’s got the job, and with a mandate of sorts (around a quarter of the electorate voted Tory), it’s not clear that he wants the job any more. Bored already.
People who know Cameron suggest that he’s lazy and slapdash. It certainly looks like that from here in the cheap seats.
Cameron wings it. He’s so self-confident that he knows that he can rely on appearance and manner to trump substance and preparation. He doesn’t answer questions, he just powers through with strings of plausibly enunciated nonsense. In some ways he’s the Anti-John Prescott. Where Prescott mangled the language, but somehow you knew what he meant, and it was often something interesting or new, so Cameron speaks in complete, grammatical sentences which are entirely devoid of content.
He’s a risk-taker, too. A political leader can’t be entirely risk-averse, but Cameron takes risks like many of his class take drugs or pay for sex, in the insouciant expectation that they’ll get away with it. That his luck has held out so far owes nothing to his political skill. He was casual about the Scottish referendum, which nearly led to the break up of Britain (a risk which remains live). His EU referendum next year or the year after is another high-stakes gamble with Britain’s reputation and place in the world, and for what? To placate some irritants in his party. At a time when the European Union faces possibly the biggest crisis in its history, where is Cameron? Not around the top table with the serious politicians from serious countries. He’s whinging from the sidelines in the hope of distracting Merkel from the refugee crisis for just long enough to agree to a pretend ‘deal’. And then he assumes that we’ll all go along with the charade and and vote to “remain”. He’s even lost control of the question on the ballot paper and the terms of engagement. Unbelievable.
Being David Cameron must be very nice. He has had a comfortable life. All the advantages money could buy have been lavished upon him. Even the tragedy of his son’s short and difficult life must have been eased greatly by the power of cash to provide around-the-clock care and support for the family on a scale most ordinary, middle-class families could never have, let alone a poor family without secure housing tenure. He’s never had to apply for a job – family connections by-pass all that nonsense. And he finally got to do the one thing he really wanted to do. If it all goes pear-shaped now, he can calmly walk away, go on one of his frequent chillaxing holidays, and catch up with some box sets.
The trouble is, waiting in the wings is George Osborne, who definitely does know what he wants to do with the job of Prime Minister. And that’s not nice to contemplate.