“Cameron’s likeable,” Johnson said in an interview with The Sunday Times. “He’s articulate. He’s a nice guy.” Does Cameron really believe in the National Health Service? “I am sure he is genuine about the NHS,” said Johnson. What is going on? Johnson was articulating Labour’s latest attempt to find a line of attack against the Tories that might resonate with voters.
No 10 spin doctors privately admit that attempts to paint Cameron as a bicycling chameleon, uncaring toff or insincere estate agent have failed. Polls and focus groups regularly find that voters view Cameron as “affable” and “well meaning”.
Now the strategy is shifting. The message is that Cameron may be a pleasant chap but he is a prisoner of an unreconstructed rightwing party that would destroy essential public services if it ever won power. “Cameron’s been very skilful at the way he has projected his own image onto his party. Now there is a feeling that, yes, you are a nice guy, but what is next?” Johnson said.
“Cameron’s genuine, but he is leading the Conservative party. It is not a presidential system – much as we might have disguised it under Tony. This is a party system.”Those in the cabinet with Oxford degrees in political philosophy talk about the “head-body paradox”. The theory is that a split party, with a leader leaning towards the left while the grass roots are pulling rightwards, can never win an election.
Interesting. So the stratedgy shifts from him being painted as a chinless wonder to one of killing him with kindness and sympathy. He's a prisoner of those awful right wingers in his Party who won't let him do what he wants.
Dear oh dear. It's an interesting volte face, but it's a strategy that will fail. Cameron is in complete control of the Conservative Party, more so than any other leader since Churchill, in my opinion. What he says goes. Of course there are voices who disagree with aspects of his policies, but I'd like Alan Johnson to name a single one where he has been forced into a retreat because those siren voices on the right have exerted pressure. Even on grammar schools, it hasn't happened. The policy has remained unchanged.
James Forsyth thinks it is now time to give other Shadow Cabinet members a higher profile. A fine thought, but he fails to recognise that the media just aren't interested in anyone beyond Cameron, Clarke, Hague and Osborne. That's why he was unwise not to bring DD back (more of which in my Total Politics interview with Cameron, out next week).
The other reason the Labour change of strategy won't work (if there is indeed a change) is that Labour politicians are so brainwashed with the line that Cameron is a do-nothing chameleon that they just won't be able to change just like that. Can you imagine Draper's gang changing from attack puppies to chihuahuas? Me neither. Still, I am happy to be providing David Cameron with a lightning rod at the moment!
Labour is incapable of change. And that's why they are destined to lose.