Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Cameron's Rubicon

Jame's Forsyth puts it rather well:
The opinion polls are continuing to feed the story that the Tories are in trouble. Tonight’s Politics Home data which shows Cameron’s personal ratings dropping 15 points in the last 10 weeks follows a string of polls where the Tories have failed to break through the forty percent mark. Tory morale has been a bit shaken by these polls; Cameron could do with a decisive win at PMQs tomorrow to gee up the Parliamentary party. But turning these numbers around is, I suspect, going to require some policies that show us what David Cameron’s irreducible core is. Oddly enough, I don’t think these policies have to be particularly popular but they have to show the electorate that Cameron stands for something, that he isn’t just another say anything to win politician. Picking a fight on offering substantial recognition to marriage in the tax system might actually be a good strategy for Cameron in these circumstances. It would show that there are some things he will stand up for whatever the risks.
Cameron already has my vote, not because I've been especially impressed by him recently, but because base camp for climbing the Everest of hope - hope of a possible recovery economically and socially in the UK after the damage mercilessly wrought for 13 years by the worst government it has ever had inflicted upon it - is to vote them out by voting him in.

That's a no brainer (isn't it?).

However, Forsyth is right. Cameron must re-find his voice. He has to stop squabbling (potentially - apparently - possibly - corrupt Islamic schools in Haringey, serious though that might have been, is nonetheless mere squabbling - of the schoolboy variety. There are bigger fish to fry. Didn't they know that?!), and start fighting - preferably for what he believes in. Pre-Brown-Bust, I heard him talk about those things. And he convinced me then that he was the man. New face, fresh ideas, and sound. But time has passed and he has very definitely lost some of that focus - possibly, even, some of that initial hunger. I, for one, would sympathise were that the case, given what he's been through personally and given what now confronts him potentially, as a prospective PM (thanks to Brown).

But the whole, dynamic mechanism in a hardened old democracy like ours is the vital relationship between the politician, who wants the vote, and the voter, who wants to vote. And so the former must convince the latter that what she/he believes in precisely coincides with what you/you(?) believe in.

If David Cameron really wants to be Prime Minister, then that's where he needs to begin. As Forsythe suggests, he has to dare to bare his soul to the nation, at least in terms of his political philosophy (I know he has one), and then, by the baring, go on to win the debate that would inevitably be sparked with the electorate he seems so ambitious to lead.

It troubles me, however, because I suspect that that understanding, and confronting this political (and psephological) reality, will be like facing a personal Rubicon for an erstwhile (possibly) focus group, PR man like Cameron. It might simply be too difficult for him to cross. But let's hope he does cross it and then march on with a view, a vision and the confidence that those bring, because we, the electorate, are up the proverbial creak without a paddle if he doesn't.

If he's up to it, he'll do it. If he's not, he won't. Simple as.

God help everyone in this country if it's the latter.

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