Cameron’s speech

In possibly one of the least surprising development in recent political blogging, I was rather underwhelmed by David Cameron’s speech.

Apart from some rather strange linked arguments – like  “I hate big Government!      I love the NHS!” – which worked OK as soundbites but dissolved in fatuity at a moments thought, I found it a curiously banal speech. The whole hour was full of statements of good intent, without much in the way of connective tissue that allows you to get from here to there.

Cameron is, we learnt, in favour of society, family, responsibility, community. Well, so am I, and so is every man, but do these values come when call for them?

This is the essential problem with what Cameron says – his policies do not achieve anything close to the grandeur of his claims. Take schools – the Tories will allow institutions to start their own schools – but this policy can only work with funding for sustained overcapacity and genuine independence from the centre – but Micheal Gove can promise neither – he demands uniforms, and setting and a particular way of teaching history and significant funding reductions for the education system.

Or welfare reform – here the tory policy of support for getting people back to work has the right intentions – but all the research shows a support into work policy is more expensive than a maintenance approach,  meaning any policy requires big government cheques, even if you abandon big government agencies. Yet Cameron seems to believe he can achieve Welfare reform and lower welfare bills simultaenously- which is why, while Cameron appoints Iain Duncan Smith to be in charge of social justice, Tory wonks quietly elide questions of the cost of the programmes which IDS proposes.

Yet my analysis has a fatal flaw in judging the success of Cameron’s speech, or that of any leading politician.

It treats Cameron as the leader of a potential government. As a leader of a political party, however, his aims must be different, and as the commentators of both left and right tend to judge political speeches not as a coherent argument for policy, but as pieces of political theatre, it’s no surprise that it Cameron is often being judged by how successful people think the speech will be at convincing swing voters.

This is, as I’ve said before, is more our fault as political operatives than it is that of  journalists. When politicians treat politics as theatre, we can’t really complain when journalists become theatre critics*.  I would rather the next generation of politicians abandoned this theatrical style, and confronted the hollowness of our political discourse head on. Wonkery ahoy, say I! (Though you also might argue that to carry this off successfully would require an extraordinarily talented poltical actor.)

Still, until then: This is pretty funny.

* Though the likes of Alistair Campbell would rightly point out that politicians did this because the journalists themselves demanded such an approach – think how Labour were treated when the theatre was regarded as bad, in the eighties.

11 Responses to “Cameron’s speech”

  1. nic

    “Cameron is, we learnt, in favour of society, family, responsibility, community. Well, so am I, and so is every man, but do these values come when call for them?”

    Ahh, but Hopi, you need to go back to your list of hates. Society, Family, Responsiblity, Community, as a Nu Labour type surely I hate them all?

    Society, what w**kers.

    Reply
    • hopisen

      Well, if you like a cross between Brecht, Beckett and Kafka…. actually, that does soud rather good.

      Reply
  2. newmania

    Suppose all the crunchy with bits details turn out to be lies (or statistical misrepresentations ). I have high hopes of the educational Policies actually .

    Reply
  3. Chris

    Sad that you confuse Big Governemnt with achieving big results.

    The fewer layers of managers, paper pushers and consultants the more efficiently most organisations run.

    The more directly accountable ministers are the more likely it is that they’ll get of their arses and do something useful. The creation of quangos is simply to allow the minister to shift the responsibility, they add very little if any value and cost a lot.

    Employing consultants is, most often, stupid. Are civil servants so thick they can’t manage a project (given the MOD procurement this may be true). If they are then sack them and the person who hired/assigned them and employ someone who knows how to do the job.

    Doesn’t mean the bills aren’t large; does mean that less is wasted on employing failed party hacks (ex-mps and part loyalists as well) at inflated salaries.

    Efficacy by civil servants (national or local) is a good thing.

    Reply
    • Hopi Sen

      “The creation of quangos is simply to allow the minister to shift the responsibility, they add very little if any value and cost a lot.”

      I hate to break this to you, but the tory policy on the NHs involves.. running it by quango (or “independent board” for those afraid of the term Quango).

      And who do you think is going to check whether all these independent state schools are in line with national policy? Yup – another quango.

      Reply
      • Chris

        Nothing for me to be afraid of.

        If that is their policy then I am happy to make the same argument against them.

        Reply
      • Quietzapple

        Quangos were principally a way of privatising bits of the civil service, which Mrs Thatcher loathed, and hoped to undercut and undermine.

        Reply
  4. Chris

    Two cans and his anti-Thatcher tosh here as well.

    If you bothered looking at quangos without the labour glasses you might detect that the highly paid people in them tend to be ex-politicos and friends of the government.

    It’s a way of giving money to your allies.

    Reply
    • nic

      Strange that.

      If you bothered looking at business without the idiot glasses you might detect that the highly paid people in them tend to be from other businesses and friends of that industry.

      It’s a way of employing people with the relevant skills.

      Reply

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