David Cameron – the strengths and the weaknesses

David Cameron – the strengths and the weaknesses

    Part 1 – the polished presenter with female appeal?

Before my main holiday I thought I’d pen out a couple of posts on THE political phenomenon of the past twelve months in British politics – David Cameron. Is the billing right that he’s the great saviour of his party or will the Cameron thing just fizzle out in a year or so and Labour will win their fourth term? cameron trunks + baby2 side strip.jpgMy first part is on his strengths.

First a couple of anecdotes about Cameron which are quite revealing about the man who would be Prime Minister.

In her IoS column on Sunday Sarah Sands wrote of how a friend had been on the same plane as the Camerons as they were returning from their holiday in Corfu “. ..the plane had been on time and not too full. And sitting right there in economy were David Cameron and his family. Furthermore, the Conservative leader had spent much of the journey walking up and down the aisle with his baby. When I repeated this anecdote I got a mixed reaction. All women want a husband prepared to take the baby during the plane journey rather than peering sympathetically from the seat in front then returning to a newspaper and a gin and tonic. The men I mentioned this to, however, groaned and grumbled. What a nitwit. What a show off. I reckon that David Cameron’s dilemma is not between old Conservatives and new ones but between men and women.”

On a completely different tack one of the site’s regular contributors, Tyson, quoted an anecdote about Cameron’s search for a seat before the 2001 General Election. By the year before there weren’t many seats available and any vacancy in a constituency which was in any way safe was fought over bitterly. As the election got nearer Cameron must have almost given up until Shaun Woodward defected to Labour. Witney, in Oxfordshire, became vacant.

“When Cameron was selected as the Tory candidate for Witney he took some notes for his speech. He knew the ground rules that no notes were requested, so when reminded of this he elaborately tore them up and gave an impeccable speech. One of the selecting panellists told me that they had made the decision on this gesture alone. Cameron IMO entirely planned it for dramatic effect, and I think everything about Cameron’s politics since is planned, tested, rehearsed, coached, repeated for maximum impact”

For all we might scoff at the qualities featured in these two examples they are both proving to be highly effective and appear to swing votes. Certainly the ability to make brilliant apparently unprepared speeches has been the heart of Cameron’s ability to sweep all before him for, firstly, the Witney selection and then the Tory leadership.

    You keep on hearing it being said that after falling for Blair ten years ago the electorate won’t go for the same type again. That’s like saying that a woman who always ends up with the wrong sort of man is going to choose better next time. We all know that it’s highly likely that she won’t.

Those Blairite qualities of “being an ordinary sort of guy”, the ability to make good sound bite, the way he looks, and the fact that for many his voice is easy on the ear all add up to a powerful combination.

Looking back over the past year the most telling phase was the way he handled the intense media questioning on whether he had taken cocaine. He stuck with his line about the private lives of politicians before entering public life and it eventually went away. A second Mr. Teflon had arrived.

His special appeal to women is most intriguing. While individual polls might show varying figures the overall trend is that Cameron has picked up more female support in the polls than male compared with last year’s General Election. The Labour “female bonus” that was won in 1997 appears to be almost exhausted.

    But there are serious chinks in the Cameron armoury and those I will discuss in Part 2 tomorrow.

Anybody want to contribute a guest column? During my holiday Philip Grant (Book Valie) will once again be standing is as guest editor. Anybdy with ideas for guest slots should contact him by email.

Mike Smithson

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