Friday, 20 September 2019

David Cameron was too young, inexperienced and lacking in confidence

My sister said that she couldn't decide if David Cameron was very clever or an idiot until he was reported breaking the rule that what the Queen says in private is kept private and telling the Mayor of New York that she had 'purred' down the telephone from happiness at the result of the referendum on Scottish independence. My sister made up her mind then that he was an idiot.

Women have very good intuition.

Thinking about David Cameron over the last week one thing is clear to me. He was too young and far too inexperienced to be Prime Minister. 

He did not have the self-confidence to question the assumptions of her civil service, the generals and the establishment. He had never held office before he became Prime Minister and had only four years' experience in the House when he became leader of his party.

He loved his haute boheme wife, who is obviously delightful, smokes roll-ups and
possibly stronger things, and drinks beer in the morning, but he loves her because he himself is very conventional, which is normal with politicians. Bagehot said statesman is a man of common opinions and uncommon abilities and had in mind Peel. 

But Peel changed his mind on Catholics and on the Corn Laws. Cameron could not change his mind and move from Remain to Leave.

Mr. Cameron thinks that a Brexit referendum was inevitable at some point. I doubt it. James Kirkup points out that Europe was only considered an important issue by 6% of the population in 2013 when he promised one

On the other hand, immigration was considered a very big issue and mass immigration from the EU was a huge issue. James Kirkup is typical of a lot of opinion formers when he says that, instead of talking about Europe and immigration, Mr Cameron should have concentrated on social mobility and mental health.

Mr. Cameron has a lot in common with James Kirkup and both men consider Leave as something wicked, because they think it is nativist and therefore a grave heresy. The rights of immigrants, homosexuals and women have a quasi-sacred status in a  secular religion in which liberals, including liberal conservatives, believe.

It is a religion that proselytises through the air.

In fact, of course, Brexit will lead to more non-European immigrants at the expense of Polish unskilled workers.

This is the best article I have read on David Cameron the man, written by someone who knew him well at one point, liked him and Mrs Cameron but did not like Mr and Mrs Michael Gove. I quote this.

'And a lot of politics comes down to reading people. Judging people and assessing character is crucial. As recounted in his memoirs, Cameron wasn’t always good at it. He misread the characters of quite a few key members of his entourage, most notably when they hailed from different backgrounds to his own, for example the adopted son of an Aberdonian, Michael Gove. And he was probably not at ease with foreigners, especially Europeans. Such limited social confidence is not the best base for a politician, let alone a Prime Minister.

'From the very outset the Camerons’ friendship with Michael Gove and Sarah Vine was destined to end in tears. I first met Gove a quarter of a century ago and I believe he is too profoundly unhappy and insecure in his own skin to be trustworthy. That such an able orator and administrator could be both unctuous and overwrought I found surprising while I felt Vine was propelling herself forward as a ‘lady in waiting’ to Sam. I ade every effort to avoid them since biting my tongue didn’t always work.

'A particular problem in a political leader is that while Cameron is bright and quick on his feet, he is remarkably incurious. His instinct is not to challenge or interrogate but to accept the Establishment view: the permanent secretary, ambassador or general says this, so it must be true. Mention legitimate concerns about uncontrolled mass immigration, and you’d be met with a slightly disapproving harrumph and then the inevitable metropolitan liberal ‘line to take’.'

This disapproving harrumph was exactly the reaction of George Osborne when Remainer Max Hastings suggested he give voters some hope of more restrictions on immigration, even though Mr Cameron had pledged to reduce immigration to the tens of thousands a year, instead of three hundred thousand a year.

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