Sunday, May 19, 2013

David Cameron: The UK's most useless Prime Minister

It's hard to imagine to what further depths David Cameron's premiership can descend to. I wrote earlier in the year about how Cameron's government have been a disaster unparalleled in modern British history. Gordon Brown's premiership was seen as incompetent half the time, and psychologically unstable for much of the rest of it. Brown may have had bouts of mental instability, but at least he had a plan to rule the country and the economy. Cameron, on the other hand, seems to not have any ideas at all how to rule his own party, let alone the country.

Cameron's delusional personality and deficient intelligence is what is causing the most damage to the title of Prime Minister of the country, as well as the future of the country itself. While he gives the appearance of consummate self-confidence when giving speeches, and being unruffled in a crisis, the reality behind that facade is that he has no idea what he's doing.

He doesn't have the first clue about how to be a leader. This is now glaringly obvious, even to his dwindling circle of supporters. His style of leadership is to be stubbornly-resistant on issues that are irrelevant to the future of the UK (such as gay marriage), while being "intensely relaxed" about matters of utmost gravity (such as Britain's membership of the EU, or even keeping the basic discipline over his own ministers).
In other words, he has no rational sense of perspective. This adds further weight to the perception that he and his advisors are "out of touch": or, to put it another way, living on a different mental plane that the rest of the country.

With Cameron, there is no sense of leadership of the party or government, more a sense of vacuum from the centre. The recent fiasco over the EU referendum is a key example. He has been indecisive, altering his position so much that his own ministers cannot keep up with the "official" line. He allows other ministers to make policy without his involvement; worse, he allows other ministers to promote their own vision and careers at his expense, by allowing them to give speeches on issues outside their brief.
This has been encouraged by the previous point; Cameron's own flip-flopping has encouraged ministers to say what they want on any issue, because Number Ten is incapable of giving an answer that is consistent for any length of time, especially on Europe.

More typically, he leads from the rear; a follower rather than a leader, constantly battling to keep up with events orchestrated by his supposed underlings.
As a leader of men, Cameron lacks the mental strength normally considered essential to keep control. Indiscipline goes unpunished. Conservative MPs rebel when they feel like it, because Cameron is too scared of them. There is no other rational explanation. Giving the impression of being "relaxed" about indiscipline gives others the impression that Cameron believes in the "David Brent" style of management: that if you are chilled-out about work and chummy enough with your colleagues, the company will run itself.

Even when he has tried to make a ham-fisted attempt at leading from the front, for example with his much anticipated Europe speech in January, he had made a problem worse rather than better. Because he has flip-flopped so much, no-one believes anything he says anymore on Europe. This explains why his attempt at "shooting the Ukip fox" instead resulted in letting the fox loose inside the chicken coop. His earlier attempt at European politicking late in 2011(as explained here) fatally damaged his reputation in Europe, showing poor statesmanship, for only a brief bit of short-term popularity at home. Again, in the end, the only winner from these pitiful attempts at leadership have been his enemies.

He has repeatedly shown appalling judgement. Ministerial incompetence is rewarded (as we saw with Jeremy Hunt); ministers are only sacked after weeks of indecision (as we saw with the Mitchell affair). As though imagining being a Prime Minister to being a feudal baron, he values loyalty above competence: George Osborne remains in place, in spite of being almost universally loathed. He promotes personal friends as his advisors (even Boris' brother), and will go to almost irrational lengths to protect them from harm (as we are now seeing with the "Swivelgate" fiasco).

Cameron as a person is not hard-wired for making tough decisions, let alone lead a country in the middle of an economic crisis. Cameron gives the impression of being self-confident when making speeches, but when it comes to the crunch, he doesn't have a clue how to do things. Cameron is the "good-time Prime Minister", doing his job best when he is able to cheer people up, making them feel good about themselves and the country. The "relaxed" attitude Cameron exudes comes from his carefree and upper-class background; the cheerful toff in Number Ten. Like the former US President, "Dubya", he gets on well with almost everyone, but has never had to make a difficult decision in his life.

Worse, he doesn't listen. Rather than listen to his critics, his first instinct is to attack them; making snide and infantile comments to MPS from the dispatch box during PMQs; worst of all, Cameron attacks his own natural supporters (former Conservatives, now Ukip supporters) as "fruit cakes and loonies". This is not just appalling leadership, it is political insanity. 

And to cap it all off, he doesn't care. I don't mean he's heartless; I mean he gives the continual impression of not taking his job seriously. If the Prime Minister is "relaxed" about the potential exit of Britain from the EU, to give just one example, it tells you that the man doesn't have a worry in his head, because for him, being or not being in the EU makes no difference to him personally. He devolves so much responsibility to his ministers probably because he has no ideas himself. He would rather someone else do something, rather than him do nothing.
This is government by trial-and-error, as the incredibly high number of U-turns on policies glaringly tells you. Which means the Prime Minister does precious little hard thinking before letting his ministers put into action whatever idea they have that week: the blind being led by the clueless. Cameron has no particular ideas about the country; he simply wanted to be PM because he thought he'd be rather good at it, to paraphrase the man himself.

This explains how the UK's government became an ongoing farce, with the direction of the country being hijacked by a political party that isn't even in parliament, let alone government. Ukip, the party of "fruit-cakes and loonies", is the tail wagging the Conservative dog, because Cameron is incapable of leadership.

The most serious consequence of Cameron's utter lack of leadership is the appalling damage being done the Conservative party, and the political system as a whole. Cameron became Conservative leader as a "post-Blairite" Conservative: a hoodie-hugging, gay-friendly metropolitan Conservative who thought, like Blair, he could modernise his party and appeal to the centre without damaging its traditional voters.
Ukip is the result of that complacency. Because Cameron is a natural moderate and coalitionist manager, it didn't take him long to accept a formal Coalition with the LibDems. Cameron no doubt thought this would isolate the traditionalist wing of his party further to the political edges. Instead, three years on from that, we see the "Cameroon" brand of Conservatism being squeezed into an ever-narrower band - with Ukip taking up the political reins of the former "Thatcherites" on the right, and the remaining Europhile Tories despairing of Cameron's protracted fence-sitting, while Labour and the LibDems fight amongst the crowded orthodoxy of the middle ground.

Nigel Farage is in many ways more of a disciple of Thatcher than Cameron ever could be. David Cameron's political identity was moulded by Tony Blair's long reign as New Labour; Farage left the party after Maastricht, mirroring Thatcher's Eurosceptic zeal and fondness of economic Libertarianism. Farage is therefore taking advantage of the identity crisis in Cameron's Conservative Party, using his own brand of neo-Thatcherism as a way to suck up disaffected traditional Tories from the shires, as well as the upper-working class ("aspiring classes") from the towns and cities. This is what Thatcher was most effective at as a political leader; Farage is using a similar strategy, and it shows all the signs of working.

It is David Cameron who has destroyed the traditional Conservative Party, leaving Nigel farage to pick up the pieces and carve out a new political reality in England - a four-party system. Because Cameron never really knew what he believed in, had no strong beliefs on any serious issue (except marginal ones, like gay marriage), when it came to the crunch, he had no intellectual basis to his arguments. By the time we get to a 2015 general election, it is difficult to assess what state the Conservative Party will be in - possibly just a hollowed-out shell of MPs who no longer have any real voters left, because the Cameroons will have left the party is such a schizophrenic state, no-one will know what the party represents any more.

When the party's own leader has no real idea what he believes in, and lets his party be hijacked from week to week by whichever MP has an axe to grind, such a party's days in power are truly numbered. It is only desperation at the alternative that keeps other Conservatives from voting for another leader.

And even that "desperation at the alternative" may soon start to look less dangerous than the reality - a three-way-split of the British political right, as described here.

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