They promised to abolish top down centralisation then created the Big Society Bank.
They failed to evacuate British citizens from Libya for fear of offending the regime, then campaigned to bomb the regime from 30,000ft.
I’ll stop right there. You get the picture. They are a mess.
These contradictions emanate from the deepest character flaw of David Cameron. He simply cannot be rooted. His instinct takes him to the right. His intellect takes him to the left. In this turmoil chaos emerges.
The problem isn’t recent, and is certainly not a response to the pressures of office. It dates back to his emergence as Conservative Party leader.
When Cameron began his detoxification of the Conservative Party he was a breath of fresh air in British politics. The Tory who used the language of the socialists intrigued the British public and gave him a chance to be heard.
But after six months, the novelty wore off and the trick became irritating. But this was the moment that something interesting happened. This was the moment when he didn’t move on.
Although he had been successful at rebranding his party, he continued to experiment with left-wing ideas. One day it was trade unions, the next it was the Co-Op. It was as if he was on a journey to discover his “inner socialist”, but to the embarrassment of the Conservative Party, he was doing this under the glare of the public spotlight.
Following ten years of humiliation at the polls by Blair’s Labour, this might be understandable. But it was deeper than fear of the polls. It was something coming from within him.
It was as if he didn’t believe in Tory values; didn’t believe in the Conservative Party; as if he hated the very institution he’d been elected to lead. So he promised to govern with bottom-up decision making, and then imposed parliamentary candidates on his own party.
In policy, he gave birth to two camps below him. In CCHQ Steve Hilton and Andy Coulson didn’t battle for power but for the instinctive right and delusional left of their leader. George Osborne chaired this campaign committee, but lost authority, due to his own inability to control the schizophrenic politics of the leader.
In a meeting to decide how to use their multi-million pound poster budget, the splits dominated. One side wanted to build on their idea of “We can’t go on like this.” The other wanted to work with, “I’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS”.
Neither was expanded, but instead a compromise was achieved when the two messages were blended into one. They failed to see the irony of the hero-worshipping accompanying image. The extensive air-brushing only removed the physical flaws of the leader, while the political flaws were obvious to all. The poster marked their decline in the polls.
Even to this day, he will convince himself that a right-wing agenda is in fact left-wing.
The Big Society is universally condemned as either a flawed concept, or a cover for cuts. But when defended by Mr Cameron, he isn’t being dishonest, as he genuinely believes it. He is convinced the Big Society is a socialist program.
In his own private world, he dismisses the facts and dwells on an imagined social outcome until eventually he becomes delusional. The Big Society is real to Mr Cameron, even when it is rubbish to everyone else.
Cameron also has a romantic vision of himself as a great reformer. I take the word “romantic” from Michael Heseltine’s autobiography, where he describes how his business partner left the successful trade magazines publishing house, to go and do “real publishing” only to promptly go bust. Heseltine describes him as having a “romantic” view of business.
Cameron has a “romantic” view of politics. He doesn’t accept his limitations. He refuses to concede that the electorate only want him to reduce the deficit, and otherwise, avoid messing things up. He feels he has to achieve great things in office and go down in history as a radical reformer.
The massive and inappropriate speed of deficit reduction, made in spite of the consequent economic risks, demonstrates this romantic trait. He’s more interested in a story being told, than in the actual job at hand. His ego affects the decisions.
The Heseltine book has a section in which the author boasts of reducing Local Authority spending by a massive 3%. This was the height of cuts under Margaret Thatcher. Under Cameron, the cuts are ten times that size. He’s not governing, he’s making a statement.
NHS reform is another example of his romantic delusion. He wants to put the GPs in charge of the whole NHS, so that decision-making is closer to the patients. The idea is small on merit but big on risk. The question is, why would he wish to pursue it? Again, the answer is his romantic delusion, of a place in history as the great reformer.
This delusion is so deep seated as to be dangerous in someone occupying the position of the most powerful man in Great Britain. Even with inherent safety checks, such as the power of the civil service (their successful watering down of the Localism Bill being an example), he has the potential to do immense damage to the country.
So far he has avoided becoming seriously unpopular with the British people. Perhaps this is due to the polarisation of the 2010 election, causing the voters to stick with their positions, or perhaps it is due to the Labour Party failing to organise an effective opposition.
Whatever the reason, it is unlikely that the Conservative Party will continue to lag so closely behind Labour in the polls. At some point the polls will shift and Tories will face a defeat that has the potential to put them out of power for a generation.
When that shift in the polls does come, they will behave like all unpopular governments behave and cling on to the last minute. Five years from the last election makes the date of the next one to be May 7th 2015.
We therefore have one thousand five hundred and twenty one days of incompetence, under a delusional political leader. Enjoy.