Thursday, 18 March 2010

Was David Cameron sober at PMQs?

My initial reaction was: not entirely.

Looking like a boiled lobster and barely able to contain his feigned apoplexy at the Prime Minister while he engaged in a repetitive onslaught on the issue of trade union militancy David Cameron appeared boosted by a dose of Dutch courage laced with confrontational relish. He showed his gristle - we should be glad he didn't start showing his balls!

Usually immaculate in dress and delivery, today he let his standards slip. It was particularly noticable that Cameron shlightly shlurred every letter 's' and h-over h-emphasised every 'h'.

We know from his personal history that he was an enthusiastic member of a dining club with a somewhat dubious reputation, so even this amateur's speculation is not beyond the bounds of possibility.

And there was definitely something odd going on as a bunch of partisan members on the tory backbenches were continually egging him on as though he were in a boozy lock-in at a private members club. Had there been an early opening meeting in one of the Westminster bars? Maybe a lobby firm had laid on a welcoming reception for a group of members.

But PMQs is no private members club - it is the weekly occasion to hold the nation's leader to account live and in public.

Now I'm not someone who advocates abstention in any absolute form, but I know very well that employers take against any incapacity to do the job due to a heavy night or a convivial and bibulous lunch - we should remember it was the main complaint against Charles Kennedy when he was removed from the leadership of the LibDems that his edge was blunted and he started to get his facts wrong when placed under scrutiny.

On the other hand Roy Jenkins was reknowned as being someone who could lunch for his country and he was remarkable for retaining his popularity with officials for giving clear directions, delegating, and being decisive - but then he was never leader of his party or a prospective candidate to be Prime Minister in a crucial pre-election period.

So is the odd digestive aid something to be frowned upon? No, but it is something I would consciously avoid on prime political occasions when performance is vital - and I have to say I thought Cameron's performance teetered on the brink of embarrassment at the final PMQ's before the budget.

He really should have been able to draw together a range of themes to prepare the ground for a major onslaught on the whole of government policy and enable him to clearly lay out his own vision, but instead he concentrated on attacking Labour's failure to deal with their vested interests - a charge that can be equally levelled at him with some not inconsiderable justification.

If the pressure is getting to the tory leader as he fails to score the regular knock-out blows his supporters expect as a formality then we have to start looking at what is behind it and questioning what further indications this provides should he rise to the highest office - much more of this inadequate strategic organisation and the public will be doubting what confidence to place in his party.


Tim Trent said...

Steady on. Politics is one thing, but this article reminds me somewhat of the attacks on Obama by the republicans. If you can't knock his policies don't knock the man unless, like other MPs he had his nose in the trough over expenses or something else that certainly passed the duck test of fraud or other criminality.

You can do better than this article.

Oranjepan said...

I'm sorry Tim, this was simply my view of what I saw.

There is nothing partisan or personal behind it (that's why I mentioned Kennedy and Jenkins) and I have to admit it was only an impression.

Also I have to point out that I did address the policy aspect - Cameron skirted completely around the issues, missed a series of glaring opportunities to lay out his case and failed to give any positive reason to support his cause - except, of course, that the tories aren't Labour (which is completely negative).

But the question of performance is, I think, very important. And my thought was that this was more than a fortifying tot, as did seem to affect his abilities.

So what do you think about drinking on duty, as it were?

Tim Trent said...

I think drinking on duty is a major error. I think in a public situation it also sets a bad example. And I accept that this was your observation. But one has to be very careful with observations like that. The things you interpreted as alcohol could be attributable to many other causative agents, innocent ones, including illness.

I'm finding Cameron's policies hard to pin down at present, so I'm not defending him as Chauvin did Napoleon. I just know you can do better and have done better than this piece. I know what you are trying to point out, but I think you have a far stronger and sharper sword than "the bloke looked drunk" if you simply analyse his performance (as you did) and leave interpretation to others.

I've tried to do the same with Giles Chichester, MEP. "By their words you shall judge them!"

Oranjepan said...

That's a fair point, and I'm happy to admit I grabbed at the headline.

However I do think value in analysis can be found in different areas - first impressions are often as important as decyphering deeper intentions, because it is where the two meet that we find the real person.

Tim Trent said...

It's a great headline!