Why is David Cameron so popular?

Today’s ICM poll in The Guardian is nothing short of a political calamity for Ed Miliband and Labour. However, it also begs a simply question – namely why is David  Cameron still consistently out-polling his Party and the government he leads? Some of the clues potentially come in the polling results themselves. 55% believe Cameron ‘does the right thing rather than says what is popular’. Incidentally, the use of the Euro veto probably improved his score on this count. 50% also judge him to be good in a crisis.

So, in the voters eyes Cameron has key qualities you want in a leader. Sincerity, conviction, and a steady hand when waters get choppy. Cameron’s main Achilles Heel – 59% say they don’t feel Cameron understands them – is swamped therefore beneath the positives. This is because empathy is a secondary character trait that people look for in a leader. In actual fact, people can see too much empathy as a negative thing because they don’t want to be lead by somebody who collapses into a gelatinous mess at the first sight of trouble. Overly empathetic people are likely to do that, good crisis management is about detaching yourself to a certain degree from the chaos threatening to envelop you. People don’t even want somebody to lead them who they see as ‘just one of them’ – they want somebody who they can look-up too and aspire to be like. Somebody therefore who broadens their horizons rather than shares them.

Frequently, at Prime Ministers Questions, Cameron seems oblivious to the detail of his own policies. If you think about it, this is probably not the handicap it would first suggest itself to be, it will create a disjuncture in peoples minds between David Cameron, the Prime Minister, and the policies of his government which the people overwhelmingly don’t actually like. So, he is able to ‘rise above’ his own government and pull in significantly better poll results than the Conservative Party.

Where does this leave Labour and Ed Miliband? With a huge, and I mean huge problem. Firstly, we should reconsider making our main line of attack. People get the message that Cameron is out of touch and it doesn’t bother them in the slightest. We have to undermine his reputation for sincerity and good crisis management – if we do that, then the out of touch issue will become a major problem where as before it is a minor, forgivable niggle.

Secondly, we are going to have to consider getting Ed Miliband a personality transplant. It’s not just the headline ratings which are dire but its truly shocking that 43% of those polled dont feel he is sincere about what he says. No doubt his is because he dithers and dawdles so much that when he does speak out people simply aren’t convinced. If Ed takes anything from this poll it should be that being Mr Empathy isn’t the route to becoming Prime Minister. I can hear the moans of his supporters now – oh we dont need another Blair etc, etc. It’s nice having a nice guy as leader.

Sadly, back in the real political world, nice guys are losers and Ed currently has a big L tattooed right across his forehead. The public want a nice, sincere guy but they do not want a nice empathetic guy to be their Prime Minister. It may make you feel warm inside having Ed as leader but frankly, its a selfish emotional indulgence to suggest that is a good reason to keep him as he is. It’s selfish because the country needs a strong Labour Party that is that can counter the barbarity of this government and  can expose David Cameron for what he is, a very naked Emperor with no new clothes.


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About darrellgoodliffe


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