You can tell a lot about a politician from looking at their commitment. Say what you like about Margaret Thatcher, but when she decided to become an MP she considered what was needed to be a legislator and then took an evening class to get herself a degree in law. Gordon Brown has never stopped studying economics, while Tony Blair went to his constituency and searched for his direction by immersing himself amongst his people. His constituency party membership was doubled as everybody enjoyed the excitement of helping this committed young politician. He eventually realised that the people on the estates felt they had no protection in law against trouble families and youngsters and so the term ASBO came into the English language.
David Cameron is an interesting one to consider. This is a man who there in Downing Street on the day that Sterling collapsed; he was actually standing behind his boss, Norman Lamont, as he announced the humiliating news before going off to sing in his bath. You have to realise that Sterling is not just another currency; this is the coinage that bears the Queen’s head. It’s a representation of the greatest country in the world. It stands for a history of empire, commerce and trusted fair play. Yet it collapsed under massive speculative attack as the markets scorned the green shoots of Norman Lamont. Our only consolation in this national humiliation was that we were not alone; Sterling went down with the Italian Lira.
So following this momentous event, what did David Cameron do to prepare himself for high office as he set off to get himself a safe seat for the Tory Party? Did he brush up on his economics, determined not to make the same mistake as his former boss? No. Did he join the police in order to learn about the law, security and the lives of those caste out by society? No, he didn’t do that. Did he join the foreign office to learn from that great branch of government? No. What did he do? He went into PR; he became a marketer.
The problem is that he didn’t learn the very first lesson of marketing; that you cannot sell a product that people don’t want. What the people want is a government who can govern, who are committed to the task. He thinks they want a pleasantly air-brush picture of pleasant young man, so he plastered the whole county with 80ft hoardings of the image he’d like them to wake up to each day, all at a cost of half a million pounds. What an expensive piece of vanity. He lost a single point in the polls for that singular error. Then he thinks he can reinvent the 1992 Tax Bombshell campaign by frightening elderly people with incorrect facts and the image of a gravestone, as if this demonstrates his empathy with them.
I used to think he was clever. I used to talk to people on the doorstep and explain that these conservatives know nothing of their lives and therefore would do a bad job of representing them. They used to reply “We think he’s just like the Labour bloke” meaning Mr Blair. I thought this was devilish clever of him, but now I realise that all the left wing things he says seem to flutter away, while all the right wing things he says have consistency. People are confused as to who he is because he’s tried to be the marketer without first developing the product. If he’d have come out in the first place and just said “Look, I’m a good old fashioned Tory; I just want to cut your taxes,” I don’t think he would have been any higher in the polls than he was, but I do think his poll lead would have been more solid.
The fact is that we’re up against a bloke who’s not up to the job, because he didn’t have that commitment when it mattered. The fact is that the more he speaks the less he says. The fact is that when this election comes, we can win.