A couple of things struck me about David Cameron’s announcement of the latest government u-turn today – one of them that he clearly doesn’t trust his ministers to take charge of big policy announcements. On the surface this is the case even when it’s a major reversal like it was today in the case of Ken Clarke’s sentencing policy or it has been previously in the case of the ‘NHS Pause’. However, the important thing to remember is although in both instances it was ‘tail-between-your-legs’ time for the ministers in question that’s not necessarily the case for Cameron himself.
I can’t imagine many better photo-ops for a Conservative leader than standing before the nation telling them your over-cuddly and definitely too liberal Justice Secretary has had to climb down on giving a huge 50% reduction in sentences for a guilty plea. It gets better. You are going to increase them for serious offenders. What better was is there to appeal to local Conservative sharks and their finely-honed Daily Mail mindset?
Cameron is a different kettle of fish to Clegg – he obviously is a competent leader for one thing and it’s not an accident that his approval ratings traditionally poll higher than those of the government. He has more than a dash of Tony Blair about him but remains more understated and subtle in my eyes – his air of aloofness no doubt comes his Eton days. This going to become a huge problem for Labour – burdened currently as it is with the leader it is. Cameron has a Teflon quality which makes it hard to turn this aloofness against him – people will generally not dislike Cameron but hate his government I think. This could be enough, in a tight-race, to save the Conservatives. Whether we like it or not this kind of thing matters in politics today. President Cameron may well yet have more aces up his sleeve….