Wednesday, February 08, 2006

CAMERON: FLIPPER OR FLOPPER?

Anyone listening to Prime Minister's Questions today will surely have chuckled at David Cameron's claim to be in agreement with the LibDems over Iraq being ridiculed by Tony Blair. Here's the BBC's take on the debate:
David Cameron has a new catchphrase: "I love it."

But during an old fashioned Punch and Judy question time (they were never going to be banished for long), the more he said it the more it became apparent he was not loving it at all.

In what was instantly branded his "Ming moment", he brought out his pre-prepared Heffalump trap and followed Winnie the Pooh's example by falling headlong into it himself.

Lib Dem interim leader Sir Menzies Campbell did it a few weeks ago by talking about the problems schools had in finding permanent headmasters to replace their interim ones.

Now it was Mr Cameron's turn as he accused the prime minister of flip flopping with his alleged cave-ins to his backbench rebels over his education reforms.

Now that is usually a perfectly serviceable and, some would argue, sustainable assault.

But coming at a time when Mr Cameron knows the prime minister is concentrating his attacks on his own programme of radically changing Tory policies, it was either high risk or downright foolhardy.

Worse still, his charge came on the day a by-election leaflet said he was in agreement with the Liberal Democrats on Iraq - a war they opposed and he supports.

The prime minister had already pulled the pin from that particular grenade and had it behind his back, waiting for a chance to lob it across the despatch box.

Even in his most vivid wish-fulfilment dreams, Mr Blair could not have pictured the Tory leader offering it to him on such a gilded plate.

It was so ill-judged that it was hard not to think it was deliberate.

Was it a phrase cooked up during his pre-question time rehearsals in an attempt to pre-empt the Blair assault and take some of the heat out of it? If so it was plain daft.

Or was it a simple mistake of the sort every politician makes but which, in this atmosphere, can prove fatal?

Either way it was the first real flop (and that's being kind) of Mr Cameron's question time performances.
When Cameron was elected leader of the Conservatives, there was talk of him turning his back on the old Tory tradition of isolationism and standing firm on Iraq. So was that wishful thinking? Has he just pulled what round our way we like to call "a major U-ey".

Well not quite. He's not quite done a John Kerry and said he "voted for it before he voted against it," and according to the Times:
A spokesman for Mr Cameron said that he was making the point that although the parties disagreed over whether to go to war everyone now agreed that Iraq could not be abandoned, and that a stable government should be established as soon as possible to enable troops to be withdrawn.
Well that may be true, but then that would mean that the Tories and Labour were in agreement - I don't hear Tony Blair suggesting that our troops remain there longer than necessary.

So not quite as big a story as it might seem, but an embarrassing faux pas nevertheless.

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