Monday, November 18, 2013

Is David Cameron a psychopath? No, just a product of the times.

An article by Andrew Rawnsley looks at David Cameron's well-established lack of political convictions, which mirrors some of the points I've mentioned in my earlier articles about Cameron's personality.

In some ways, Cameron's lack of serious conviction is typical of the "professional politician", and is nothing new, let alone limited to Cameron himself, or the Conservatives as a party. It is well-known that Cameron got his inspiration from Blair.
Looking further back, "one nation" Conservatives agreed with Labour on the "post-war consensus", most recently Edward Heath. It was Thatcher who brought her own sense of ideological revolution to break apart the unwritten "consensus" that had existed since the end of the Second World War. 
Across the pond, Richard Nixon best embodied the principle of ideological nihilism that can send a man into power, and kept him in re-elected power with an overwhelming majority. "Nixon" Republicanism was a product of Nixon's own personality: to do what was necessary (regardless of the law) to stay in power, and shamelessly steal ideas from across the political spectrum. In other words, he was a ruthless populist and Machiavellian schemer.

Cameron's was once asked why he wanted to be Prime Minister, and his telling reply was "because I think I'd be good at it". As Rawnsley points out in his article, Cameron has always wriggled out of defining "Cameronism"; because there is no such thing. The evidence suggests that all Cameron has a serious conviction about is his own self-confidence, and his own self-advancement.

Pimp my ride

The trip to Sri Lanka for the Commonwealth summit is typical of Cameron's often spontaneous judgments, deciding on actions impulsively or for superficial reasons. With his government's popularity flagging, and Milliband's personal ratings recently improving, it's entirely plausible that Cameron saw Sri Lanka and the plight of the Tamils as a useful distraction from political trouble at home. Foreign trips abroad therefore act as PR stunts for the former "PR man" PM; using the misfortune of some poor foreigners to create a foreign policy "stance" on some issue abroad. While Cameron is hardly the first statesman to do this, Cameron seems to take this tactic to new levels of regularity, hopping around the world like a headless chicken.

The loss of the vote on Syria was the nadir of Cameron's attempt at statesman-like politicking. In brief, his behaviour over that week of the vote brought out all his negatives: his cynical approach to politics, attempting to give the superficial look of "democracy"; his arrogance, in assuming that the vote was in the bag without bothering to do the legwork first; his reckless spontaneity, in promising Britain's support to Obama in advance of any consultation with parliament; and his generally appalling lack of judgement.

The same lack of judgement and recklessness was shown in his previous foray with Europe two years ago, where he earned short-term popular support at home, while wrecking Britain's standing and long-term future in the EU. Again, cynical politicking for cheap populism at home, recklessly putting the country's future in uncertainty. And his plan to "kill the Ukip fox" was so badly-judged, it only served to backfire spectacularly.

This pattern is repeated again and again at home. Cameron uses foreign PR stunts to give a crutch to his otherwise appalling track record as a national statesman.

Ironically, the only real foreign "success" he has had is in acting as a pimp to Britain's assets: offering foreign companies a free ride in Britain in energy markets at the expense of the taxpayer, and so on. The only ideas he has for Britain's role in the world is as a "whore" for everyone else. The only thing Cameron seems to think Britain's future can offer is its own indignity.

How not to run a government

Cameron's manner of running government is a further lesson in his many personality flaws. After failing to win a majority, his prompt decision to form a Coalition with the LibDems might have appeared like a master-stroke to some, but was more a product of his own opportunistic and cynical personality.
With Cameron clearly having no firm views (or real ideas) of his own, and more than any other recent British premier, pursuing the role simply for its own end, being master of a Coalition was the perfect solution. It meant he could stand between the more ideologically right-wing Tories and the more left-wing LibDems as a moderate, stately figurehead.

There are the continual allegations of Cameron's "lies" by those who feel betrayed by his broken promises. His government has presided over U-turn after U-turn, with some newspapers even keeping count. Cameron's position as the moderate leader of a coalition gives him the ready excuse for this, but the fact that his government have backtracked on an almost unprecedented number of policy commitments show less that Cameron is populist, but rather he doesn't take commitments seriously.
This is what has so angered those the the traditional right of the party, and accounts to an extent for the rise of UKIP: no-one believes he is a "true" Tory, and that even the talk of "austerity" (more on that later) can be thought of as simply one of convenience.

Austerity is a conveniently-substantial piece of right-wing Conservative policy (and ideology) that gives Cameron's government a purpose, and makes him look "conservative" to his own supporters.

It is plausible therefore that Cameron allows austerity to happen simply because it will put his name in the history books for changing the face of Britain: it doesn't matter what he's changed, only that he's changed something, and that his name will be forever attached to it. "Austerity" may well simply be Cameron's effort at achieving political immortality, and an utterly amoral act of narcissism.

In other words, Cameron the "hug a hoodie" moderate, who at one time promised to hold to Labour's spending plans and urged people to "Vote Blue, Go Green", by the summer of 2010 had become a right-wing ideological revolutionary. What had changed? In reality, the only thing had changed was that Cameron's superficial interest in social justice (or most of his ideas) had been revealed as nothing more than that - superficial. This is what happens when your leader is a former PR man.

In the end, though, this meant that as a Prime Minister, he presides rather than rules. This has had the contradictory effect of having government policies that, at times, appear logical absurdities.
While Cameron allows the LibDems the occasional symbolic announcement of government "policy", more commonly Cameron has allowed the more "revolutionary" Tory ministers in the Departments of Education, Health, and Social Policy, to use Britain as a virtual living laboratory for ideological experimentation.

Most recently, he declared that Britain should strive for "permanent austerity" - or, if you like "perma-sterity", another buzz-word that could catch on. Cameron's interest in "ideas" seems as superficial as everything else about him. He delegated running ministries to the ministers. Why? Either because he didn't care about what actually happened in them, or that he thought it would make him look "stand-offish" and not wanting to get in the way of the intricacies of government. But this is the crux: a Prime Minister has to know, and ultimately be responsible for, what goes on in his government. If he doesn't know, or doesn't care, then is abrogating his duties as the premier of the country. Either that, or he is allowing clearly incompetent people like Iain Duncan Smith to run essential parts of government policy simply as a distraction from his own failings as a leader.

If he truly cared about the appalling effects his government's social and economic policies are having on the British people, he would do something about it. But fundamentally he either lacks the intelligence, attention span or the empathy to truly understand the effect of his ministers' actions, coming up with mealy-mouthed soundbites to excuse for the social destruction of the lower two-thirds of society.
But this again fits in with Cameron's personality: he takes few things very seriously.

A gang of misfits

This includes such lapses in judgement as the longstanding connection Cameron had with Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, possibly one of the most obviously (and casually) corrupt relationships seen in Downing Street for years. While Labour is also historically implicated in the imbroglio with the Murdoch Press, Cameron's relationship is even seedier and shows ever worse judgement.

His judgement also extends into rewarding loyalty at the expense of competence (or even intelligence), supporting a ministerial circle of flawed and dangerous personalities.
Jeremy Hunt, whose calamitous appearance at the Leveson Inquiry, focusing on his relations with Murdoch Press, led to a later promotion to Health Secretary. Nationally, doctors groaned at the appointment.
Iain Duncan Smith, widely considered to be lacking in competence and sufficient intelligence for the role, is tasked with completely reworking Social Policy, outsourcing to companies like Serco, and effectively destroying the humane fabric of the postwar "welfare state".
George Osborne, the Chancellor, is the most hated politician in the country, and few economists take his ideas seriously. An even more cynical political manipulator than Cameron, his newest idea "Help To Buy", is considered a ticking time-bomb of artificial credit that was created simply to give the superficial impression of wealth to gullible voters in time for the next election. After rubbishing Labour for creating one bust, Osborne is happy to create another one, during far worse economic times. Osborne's policies are designed to only improve the lot of London and the South-east of England, with the rest of the country becoming an economically-depressed "neo-colony".
Michael Gove, perhaps the most dangerous personality to have ever held sway in the Education Ministry, is intent on a reworking of how Education is ran in England (the other parts of the UK already having devolved power in this area); Gove's plan is almost Bolshevik in its ruthless application.
Chris Grayling and Theresa May, Justice Minister and Home Secretary respectively, are in the process of privatising large parts of the Justice System, to the benefit of the likes of Serco and others.

And when not taking things seriously, Cameron is, on the contrary, taking some things far too seriously: losing his temper in parliament in a manner unlike any PM in living memory (even Gordon Brown), impetuously making snide remarks to make cheap political points, demeaning the role of Prime Minister at the dispatch box in a way that compares very poorly to his apparent idol, Margaret Thatcher. His sudden flashes of emotion are symptomatic, like his other attributes, of a more worrying personality disorder, though not surprising in the selfish pursuit of power.

All in all, the "positives" to Cameron's personality are as superficial as everything else. Yes, he is charming, easy to get along with, and knows how to exude reassuring self-confidence and the appearance of competence. But this image is as much as facade as everything else.

Like Boris Johnson, another person in the Conservative Party who is of questionable empathy and depth, Cameron is the product of the social environment that made him. It is an elite that is incapable of understanding the majority of the population, and only try to relate to them when it is convenient to do so. Once every five years.

The rich are in a "class war" with the poor for the sake of "austerity". They declare that the state must be smaller. To the rich the "state" should be smaller because the rich don't need or use it. 
Only the poor do; and they don't matter.

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