Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Taking the long view

It is quite something that waiting a month before trying to reach an assessment of our new government feels laggardly.

So quickly does politics move now, that already the phrase "The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown" elicits no shock. The opinion polls that suggested a ten point tory lead when camparing Cameron to Brown have been shown to be as pointless as the intelligent always said they were. Jacqui Smith seems to be taking the country by storm, despite that embarrassing photo of her playing a rather dull drinking game.

As an aside. I feel sorry for the first generation of Facebook politicians. Every single photo of you looking stupid, drunk out of your mind, snogging some poor unfortunate, all uploaded, tagged, saved and secure for posterity, and by your friends too. Still, at least we'll get used to it quickly enough.

So a month in and where are we?

David Cameron is having a minor leadership crisis. How strange that seems. A mere season ago, he was expected to crush all beneath him. Commentators curled up at his feet. Office appeared to be merely a matter of time.

Today Cameron is on the edge of becoming a figure of fun. He's the husky loving, floppy haired, baby hugging, sikh guru embracing toff who made the fatal mistake of believing that the vital task that faced the Tories was to make themselves look nice.

I shall say it one more time. It was not "nastiness" that cost the Tory party power, it was screwing with peoples lives. So, don't go off to Rwanda, no matter how decent or worthy your intentions are. Explain to people why you'd make their lives better in the here and now.

I believe Cameron is more Gaitskill than Kinnock. He's facing the right direction and is personally popuar, but has a narrow base of support in his own party so cannot confront the huge issues that make his party vrtually unelectable. Add to that a huge whole in his policies for spending and taxation (No cuts in the NHS ever and lower taxation? Shurely shome mishtake...) and I think Cameron's destined to fail.

For the Government, It seems fated to suffer terrorist attacks and natural disasters, and to handle them reasonably well. I do find it strange that it's more acceptable to criticise the Government for allowing storms to flood rivers than failing to prevent terrorist attacks. (It strikes me that only one of these two is withing the power of human intervention).

The new cabinet is being quiet, methodical and slightly dull. It's all rather mature. Denham, Balls, Darling, Hutton, Straw. It's a government of the quietly competent lieutenants. The governmet, drained of the bitterness of the last few years seems focussed on getting on with the job, suddenly feeling that if they just do what they're supposed to, The election will be theirs.

On the negative side, I worry that the Government is a little quiet on the issue of crime and anti-social behaviour. We easily forget how big an issue this is for people, and it's an issue that will not go away.

This is a government of serious, policy minded people, which means they might be a little too attentive to their statistics that tell them crime is falling, rather than to the marketeers and focus group merchants who tell them the public are concerned. Cameron's best moment in the last fortnight came on prisoner release. He'll be tempted back onto this agenda soon.

So one month in.

Things going pretty well.

A long way still to go.

Carry on, Gordon, carry on.

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