Cameron Struts His Stuff On The Foreign Affairs Circuit. It Might Signal The End Of All Tory Hopes For 2015
Henry Forth writes from London: There’s something rotten in the state of British politics. The Tories are pushing themselves out of government – slightly over two years before the scheduled general election.
David Cameron, still the British Prime Minister, appears to have lost all interest in domestic politics. He has, like so many British Prime Ministers before him, become mesmerised by alarums and excursions in foreign fields. He has instinctively settled at a much higher plane than the boredom of the domestic politics of sorting out healthcare, crime, education and the economy. Instead, he is treading international stages with all the stature of someone playing the 21st century version of the Great Game. The past few days have seen Mr Cameron in Algiers, Liberia and Libya. This week his big photo-op was not with his discredited Chancellor George Osborne or his blissfully irrelevant Foreign Secretary William Hague nor even with his stand-in time share salesman of Whitehall, aka Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, but with a three-way handshake between himself, Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan’s Asif Ali Zardari. If ever a trio looked liked a successful lottery team, this was it.
The lottery theme is not irrelevant. For Cameron – can we really believe anyone has ever called him Dave? – seems to be putting the currency of his leadership on some very odd numbers indeed. For example, why would he truly believe that gay marriage is a big issue? Does he think that homosexuals and lesbians could turn the results of the next general election in his favour? Or has he been told that it does not matter that his biggest Tory faith group, the Church of England, is utterly opposed to gay marriage. Indeed the new Archbishop of Canterbury – leader of 77 million Anglicans – said only this week that he’s against it.
The other two faith groups that count in the UK, Catholics and Muslims, are also against gay marriage. How many voters has the Pope – as Stalin didn’t quite say – is not the point. The point is that with the disaster of education policy and badly performing hospitals and care homes high in the public mind, Cameron has run out of ideas other than headline stuff. So he has run off to foreign parts because domestic politics is far too difficult.
This was inevitable. Prime Ministers come into power and they go through the things that the voters care about, the economy included. Then in their first week they go to Washington to press presidential flesh. The second week, they go to Brussels to nose-to-nose the EU. The third week they go to Berlin for one-to-one with a real political leader and then to Paris for a swift handshake and very good A Level French jokes. It takes no more than a year for prime ministers to realise that the people back in the UK are boring and that their problems are boring. Worse, no one knows how to fix hospitals, cut down crime and get the economy out of trouble. And then it’s off to faraway lands.
Washington, Brussels, Algeria, Libya and even a trip to visit our boys and gals in Camp Bastion in Afghanistan give the prime minister a sense of something worthwhile, a power makeover.
Politicians do power. Great stuff. That’s why the common herd vote for them. But sitting at a cabinet table surrounded by second and third-rate people having all sorts of fancy titles, like Business Secretary for example, the PM realises that it’s not really his stuff. So he goes abroad and feels a powerful man there. He gets respect, even if the EU has relegated him to the right-hand side back row in the group photographs. Could you imagine that happening to Thatcher or her protégé Blair?
In a couple of years’ time, the result of all this will be clear to the most important focus group of all – the general electorate. They will see that the Tories have no original ideas, that they, the people, are worse off than before the coalition of incompetents came to power and that the Prime Minister is hiding abroad. The consequence? Out go the Tories.
Mind you, the next lot will be just as bad.