A Right Eton Mess
I have always been fascinated by the occasional (and very peculiar) combination of the sort of narcissistic superiority which goes with being born into privilege and a certain defensive insecutiry which comes with landing a difficult job, secured through connections, rather than merit or ability. Our unelected PM appears to possess both conditions to such astonishing levels, that perhaps psychiatry ought to re-categorise Napoleon as suffering from a Cameron complex.
For some time, I have suggested that there is a deeply dark side to him, which goes beyond mere incompetence. Earlier today at PMQs his mask dropped for just a few moments and my fears were confirmed. What was revealed is worth some scrutiny.
And I am not talking only of his paleolithic, patronising dismissal of Angela Eagle – an MP of 20 years’ experience and the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury – with “Calm down, dear” (to the almost audible sound of No.10 PR folks’ sphincters clenching shut). Much has been written already about it.
No doubt much will follow, as the ConDem spin machine tries to offer facile explanations of the It-Was-Just-A-Joke variety; designed to make anyone that didn’t find it funny look like a party-pooping, militant, bitter, puppy-kicking, crazy leftie. Or perhaps they will wait for us after school and give us a “wedgie” or a “dead leg”.
The fact is we all choose to repeat jokes that we find witty. Our PM chose to squeeze into the catchphrase Hall of Fame somewhere between Michael Winner – one of the most odious, misogynistic human husks – and the slightly more dignified rodent that replaced him in that advertising campaign. Maybe it is healthy when a man instinctively finds his level.
But my regular readers will know, I am always much more interested in the befores and afters; the stuff that is barely visible in the outter glow of the spotlight; the worrying shadow in one’s peripheral vision.
Under pressure on the subject of the no-confidence vote on Andrew Lansley, Cameron said:
Inevitably when you make changes in public services it is a challenge taking people with you. But that is the whole point of pausing the reforms and then trying to get them going ahead again with greater support from doctors and nurses.
This, for me, is the real own-goal of the day. In the space of two sentences Cameron undid all the carefully constructed rhetoric of the ConDem PR machine. This was meant to be a big “listening exercise”; proof that the government was not so big-headed as to ignore the legitimate concerns of the professionals on whom the NHS relies.
It turns out that their concerns have already been dismissed out of hand with “people don’t like change”. Cameron confirmed that this has all been a sham, probably to facilitate the coming election, after which the “play” button will be pressed once more. This unscripted statement, is the reason Cameron found himself on the back foot.
Being on the back foot, he did what all deeply flawed individuals do: He went on the attack. He followed his blunder with a lie. Former MP Howard Stoate, he stated, had been defeated in his seat by a Conservatisve. When pulled up on this by Angela Eagle, who pointed out that Stoate had stood down, he became quite red and lashed back with an offensive, childish put-down.
Cameron knows the difference between political bluster and real indignation. The moment he had uttered those three words, he could see from the reaction opposite that he had made a right Eton Mess of it. Instead of apologising, or at the very least moving on, he repeated his comment. And repeated it. And repeated it. Like a bad comedian abusing his audience instead of getting off. And finally, by now a deep crimson colour, he said “I will not apologise.”
We have seen plenty of flashes of the ConDem’s xenophobia, sexism, disregard for the disabled, for the arts, for single mothers, for students. Cumulatively, of course, these things are devastating. However, the single biggest threat to this country is the inability – and it is, I believe, an actual inbred inability – of the three public school boys at the helm to admit they have got it horribly wrong.
Cameron is looking down from the very high bridge of his own unsinkable ship, insisting the iceberg up ahead is just “a jolly big snowflake” and hurling insults at any passengers that dare suggest otherwise. He will do anything except apologise and change course. It is at the very centre of his rich-boy psyche.
It is tragic and funny in equal measure that it was at this point Speaker John Bercow chose to interrupt, admonishing Labour benches for their uproar, because it would “make a very bad impression for the public as a whole”.
With respect, Mr Bercow, a Prime Minister who will stand on the dispatch box, make no statement about the situation in Libya, refuse to answer questions on the Economy and the NHS, give erroneous statistics on immigration, reveal his government’s response to concerns over the Health Bill is a cheap stunt, openly lie, offend and then refuse point blank to apologise, makes a considerably worse impression. At least to this member of the public.