When Cameron thinks, he thinks for us
David Cameron said a very revealing thing on the Marr show at the weekend. Defending his government in the light of the spate of u-turns, he said:
Nobody thinks this Government lacks resolve, strength and grit.
Now I don’t think the government lacks resolve – it’s just wrong – but that’s not the point.
The point is that Cameron isn’t telling us what he’d like us to think about his government, or what we should think about it. He’s telling us what we do think.
I suggest this one sentence may tell us quite a lot about the way Cameron thinks, and in consequence about the way his government operates. It suggests that, in Cameron’s mind what the people of Britain think is indivisible from what he thinks; that he thinks for Britain; that, by virtue of his position, he is Britain.
This may sound an extreme interpretation of a single sentence, but it is in keeping with other evidence. Take, for example his council housing gaffe:
I get people coming to my constituency surgery saying exactly that: “We waited before we got married until we could afford it, we waited till we could afford to have children, we waited and then we managed to get a house and I see someone down the road do none of those responsible things and they get put up in a council house, they have as many children as they want.”
This isn’t just a gaffe because there is no council housing in his constituency.
It’s an interesting gaffe because it (especially the use of direct speech to convey his ‘oneness’ with the invented constituents), reveals a tendency to invent people in situations which prove the point he’s seeking to make. He’s probably not deliberately lying. Instead, because he sees himself as the embodiment of Britain, it has become second nature to ‘be’ the British people for a moment to illustrate his point.
Alone, they are sillinesses. Together, they represent a fabulist trend, born of that very deep sense of Cameronian class-based entitlement.
And it is that deep sense of entitlement – shared with Osborne and his close coterie – which has created the operational code of Cameron Conservatism, in which facts and detail are less important than the overall statecraft of ‘high politics’, and as a consequence of which u-turns are less a sign of weakness than of governmental incompetence.