In his end was his beginning. We had plenty of warning about David Cameron, plenty of warning that he was the worst possible choice, a bad leader for the Conservative Party who has proved himself to be a bad leader for the country, weak and shifting, a rudderless sailing boat, drifting in whatever direction taken by the wind. He is the hollow centre of a hollow government.
The auspices were there at the outset. He declared himself the ‘heir to Blair’ in the 2005 leadership election. That really should have finished him. But by this time the Party was desperate for a winner and, by whatever perverse chemistry, the morally bankrupt and intellectually vacant Blair had won three elections in a row, an unprecedented record in the history of the Labour Party. The Conservative Party, the natural party of government, seemed to be in fixed in unnatural opposition. Winning was all that mattered, and so the ‘heir to Blair’ it was.
But he could not manage even that much: he did not win. Even against that charmless old ogre Gordon Brown, even against a government marked by stunning levels of incompetence, even against a ministry that reached a nadir only to reach another, he could not win an outright victory. With all the pointers in his favour he could only manage second best, a coalition with Liberal Democrats, a sort of political glee club, contemptible in their perpetual theory, even more contemptible in their present practice. A flawed mandate and a gay bargain; that was the best he could manage.
It was one flawed mandate built upon another, a mandate to ‘modernise’ the Conservative Party, or the ‘nasty party’, as the absurd Theresa May described it, measured against what I can’t be at all sure. Oh, yes, measured against Margaret Thatcher, measured against the most successful peace-time leader and Prime Minister in the party’s history. Margaret Thatcher understood ordinary voters in a way that Cameron and May never will.
Instead of clear policies on the economy, on home ownership, on privatisation, on trade union reform we have had a lot of metro-land political pap. The ‘nasty party’ has become the ‘nice party’, all part of the Cameron modernisation drive, a sort of Chairman Dave Cultural Revolution that took in all the fashionable panaceas, a big tent, Big Society jamboree.
The Conservative Party was to modernise by becoming something else, though lord alone knows what. It was to move into ground occupied by tofu-eating, tree-hugging lefties. No wonder his 2010 ‘victory’ was such a damp rag. It even looked at one moment that Gordon Brown might hang on!
It was all there, all on board, all the neo-Islington panaceas, whether it’s green energy, foreign aid, rainbow liberation or Dutch cyclists. I guarantee not one Conservative voter in ten cares about the Big Society; not one person in ten understands what Cameron is about. I will say this for him, though: he is the best recruiting agent the United Kingdom Independence Party never had.
Does he understand himself, this silly self-conscious old boy, terrified of being perceived of as an old boy, so much so that he could not even go to a wedding in proper attire, least the Bullingdon Bull escaped from the pen of his past.
What a contrast he is with Boris Johnson, who wears his past lightly, with no apology and no retreat; and how we love him for it. Yes, we love Boris, I love Boris. Not that I hate Dave. I think I probably feel as most other people do, Conservative or not – on the whole I’m indifferent to him. He is in the worst possible twilight zone, neither positive nor negative, neither hated nor loved.
Thinking hard about him there is a terrible littleness about the man. He has no courage, he has no principles, he has no conviction, he has no ideas because, well, he has no idea. He is simply 'the heir to Blair', a clone, a manqué who even brought us another ‘glorious’ episode of post-colonial noblesse oblige in Libya, with consequences that we can all see. It’s a wonder that we are not also bogged down in
Tim Yeo, a former minister, described Cameron’s heart “as an organ that remains impenetrable to most Britons.” That, I suspect, is an exercise that most Britons would not care to undertake, a journey to the centre of nothingness. Like his intellect and his character, it’s hollow. He is the Hollow Man. This is the way his premiership will end, this is the way his premiership will end, this is the way that his premiership will end, not with a bang but a whimper.