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Jan. 16th, 2012

Obviously I'm not in a position to say whether David Cameron usually means the things he says in public, but if he did then it would be extraordinary for an ex-PR man with—I keep hearing—a “populist” touch to deliberately resemble an extraordinary parody of a stuffed-shirt Tory, making occasional non-committal noises about business and high finance behaving more responsibly (“Come on now, chaps”) but reserving his true ire for “monsters” like workplace safety, understaffed nurses acting like they're understaffed and—his most notable intervention yet— insufficiently commercial British films. (The Prime Minister is due to meet record industry bosses at Downing Street later today to tell them, “I want more tunes I can hum”.)

This is deliberate, right? A man with finely honed political instincts surely wouldn't allow himself to keep making pronouncements that made him sound like an idiotic golf club bore. Such finely honed instincts might also help him fight shy of spontaneous utterances that seem to reveal undesirable personal attitudes: genial contempt for women, an inadvertent but no less troubling offhand disregard for disabilities. His recent unthinking “Tourette's” comment was characteristic—as a comparison for Ed Balls's demeanour, perhaps it was accurate and even legitimate, but the rules are meant to be different if you're Prime Minister. This was the the leader of the government giving an interview, but it didn't strike him that he needed to mind what he said or how he said it any more than some guy sounding off to his mates in the pub.[1]

His default retort to any complaints is airy dismissal (often immediately glossed by a No. 10 “spokesman said”). This instinct can be seen even in the way that he has responded to the question of a referendum on Scottish independence—scattergun condescension that could easily be taken as applying to Scotland as a whole, provoking rage and defiance among even the most anglophile Scots and actually increasing the likelihood of a yes vote. However, he really shouldn't be blamed for his limited range so much as pitied for it; after all, coming from his background, why would he ever have needed to learn any other response? Entitlement can be emotionally stunting if you know that every objection can be ignored or, if necessary, bought off.

Cameron's responses after last year's riots showed no sign that he intended to be Prime Minister of everyone, including those who had transgressed; he was Prime Minister of only a limited number, and could not conceive of any legitimate grievances on the part of the rest (some of whom indeed were apparently “feral”). As time has gone on, his spontaneous impulses have been even more revealing than his policies about how he seems to divide the population into the worthy whom he actually governs and the rabble who are to be barely tolerated, the latter category surprisingly numerous. As he glides sedately towards his hoped-for earldom, that oversimple worldview is unlikely to change for the better, which bodes ill for the people he will be wielding power over for several years to come.

[1] Perhaps some things, though painful, are for the best. A life of privilege and entitlement does not necessarily prepare one to be the most sensitive parent of a special needs child. “Not again! Why've you got to be such a spastic? Oh, sorry, sorry, I was speaking off the cuff.” “You can be so retarded sometimes. Oh God, sorry, stop crying, look, I was being outspoken.”


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Jan. 16th, 2012 11:27 am (UTC)
Ever the old problem with the Tories, we're alright Jack, so screw the rest of you.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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