Friday, June 06, 2008

Cameron vs Blair part 2

Paul Linford, in arguing why he believes that Labour, if it loses the next election will not be out of power for very long, has as one of his reasons that there is nothing in David Cameron’s career to date to suggest that he will be anything more than adequate as Prime Minister. Comparisons with Blair were always wide of the mark, while comparisons with Thatcher are simply absurd. But, if comparisons are to be made, David Cameron now is where Blair was in 1995 and Thatcher was in 1977. Blair was considered to be maybe a bit light-weight, though he was modernising his party and doing a good job. Thatcher was considered shrill, was usually bested at PMQs by Jim Callaghan and was trailing in the opinion polls.
The job of Prime Minister is sui generis - it is not easy to predict who will be good at it. For evidence of this, simply examine the current incumbent. The first British Prime Minister to hold an academic doctorate; the longest serving Chancellor of the 20th century; a man with no serious rivals in his party; a man with a majority of over 60 - and yet a man who is evidently neither enjoying his job nor succeeding in it. Cameron, over his tenure as leader has shown an ability to delegate where possible and take responsibility when needed. Over the grammar school problem last summer he took the blame, and gave a series of interviews outlining his position - which didn't change despite the negative press. Though he might seem insubstantial over a range of areas, where policies are defined, he has so far been pretty good at defending them. Lets leave it a few years before we make comparisons - but lets also acknowledge that so far he has controlled his shadow cabinet better than either Blair with his dysfunctional duumvirate or Thatcher with her uneasy alliance between wets and drys were able to.

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Blogger Paul Linford said...

Thanks for linking.

I would contend that, by 1995, Tony Blair was almost approaching veneration by the British public. When Murdoch said "he's the new bloody JFK!" he wasn't really speaking for himself, he was reflecting what the public as a whole thought of him. Cameron is nowhere this point. People like him, sure, but they don't regard him as anything special. Indeed they have no good reason to do so.

Thatcher prior to 1979 was a different case again. She was in fact widely disliked, and only won the '79 election because Callaghan had messed up so badly. With hindsight, though, we had already had glimpses of the kind of character she was - not least in her treatment of Heath. Cameron is still an unknown quantity by comparison.

3:52 pm  
Blogger Tim J said...

The public or the press? I bow to your superior memory of thee things (I was a perishing neophyte in those days) but I seem to remember that in the early days of Blair the overwhelming impression was sheer relief that Labour had elected someone not obviously geriatric/welsh/frothing at the mouth.

And arguably, what Blair did to modernise the Labour Party was in ridding it of its most crippling baggage - a raft of out-dated policies that had hardened into dogma. What Cameron has done (or is in the process of doing) is to rid the Tory party of its most crippling baggage - a sense of 'nastiness' and a knee-jerk social authoritarianism.

For sure Blair's achievements were more concrete - but then so were the weaknesses he was seeking to eliminate.

Thanks for commenting!

7:57 pm  

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