Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What do Segolene Royal & David Cameron Have in Common?

I've written an article for CommentIsFree today comparing David Cameron with Ségolène Royal, the likely Socialist candidate for the French Presidency.

You wouldn't think a French Socialist and a British Conservative could have much in common, but you'd be wrong. Take Lionel Jospin and Michael Howard, for instance. No self-respecting paparazzi photographer would have wasted two minutes on snapping them in their respective swimwear, yet Ségolène Royal and David Cameron were submitted to the full gaze of the tabloid lens. Why? For one reason only. They've both got It - It being that indefinable star quality that touches those who are destined for stardom. Sometimes you can acquire It (Margaret Thatcher did) but more often than not you've either got It or you haven't.

Ségolène Royal is everything that Socialist leaders traditionally never have been: female, Blairite and stunning. Cameron is everything Tory leaders traditionally are not - young, with a full head of hair and ideologically neutral. Just as Royal is willing to ditch the hard core leftwing policies that led to Jospin's humiliation last time, Cameron is losing no time in dropping the Thatcherite inheritance that he believes has bedevilled his party for 15 years. All that is needed is for Samantha Cameron to enter politics and the comparison will be complete. Unbelievably, Royal's partner,
François Hollande, with whom she has had four children, is seen as her main rival for the Socialist party's presidential nomination.

Both Cameron and Royal are seen by many in their respective parties as seeking to emulate Tony Blair, both in style and substance. Both deny it, yet it's easy to see why the accusation can be made. Royal knows that with its current policy platform her party is unelectable. She has seen what Tony Blair had to do to make the Labour party capable of winning an election and she is determined to drag the French Socialists kicking and screaming into the 21st century. And Cameron? He believes parts of his party have barely made it into the 20th century and is determined to exploit his undoubted mandate from those very same people to modernise, modernise, modernise.

Interestingly, Lionel Jospin is deploying exactly the same tactics to criticise Ségolène Royal as David Davis did to trash David Cameron. Davis criticised Cameron for his aspirations to be the "heir to Blair", while Jospin had a go at Royal's use of the media and her blog to go over the heads of Socialist party leaders to reach party members directly. He says: "Informal links do not provide content. Technique does not replace politics. There has to be ideas, convictions and the issues have to be explained."

The subliminal message was that the slip of a girl hasn't really got the faintest idea and these things should be left to those who know about them - that is, a group of 60-year-old men who have done so disastrously in the past. And by transmitting this message, Jospin is playing into Royal's hands in exactly the same way that their British equivalents are doing David Cameron's dirty work for him. Both Royal and Cameron must be laughing themselves silly.

Check out Segolene Royal's Myspace page HERE.


Anonymous said...

Certainly, Ségolène has "it", despite being a socialist, but Cabana Boy? Iain, you really are wishing to make it so. Dave does not have star quality. He has wannabee quality. People simply do not like Dave. They may like him in Westminster, Notting Hill and wherever OEs congregate, but the voters don't like him.

MorrisOx said...

Iain, you could entertain us all royally by carrying the comments splattered (or spluttered) underneath the original CiF piece. Triumphantly missing the point as they do, I also think they allude to a greater truth about the bizarrely entertaining deconstruction of New Labour.

Cause of car crash: navel gazing...

Anonymous said...

Polls say they DO like him.
Go and have a lie down.

Croydonian said...

(Cough). French national politics is one of my things, and while Sego has the wind in her sails, ditto Sarko for the (comparative) good guys, the presidential election is a long way off, and if there is one thing the French do not do, it is evolutionary change. There are plenty of politicians in France who have woken up and smelt the napalm, but very few - if any - have anything approaching the courage to take on the invested interests in France - the fonctionaires, the enarques, the EU, the trade unions, big business, the aristos etc etc.

Always supposing Sego gets the nod from the PS, she will then have to fight an awful lot of entrenched interests in her party in order to get the activists and the broader party to support her in the campaign, while actually getting things done once in power would be another story completely. I imagine she will get the nomination, but ALL French political parties are essentially the projection of individual egos rather than parties of principle, and I would fully expect Jospin, DSK, Jack Lang to go a whole lot further than merely sniping from the sidelines. I would anticipate a split in the PS if Sego gets the nod, and she will be campaigning for the presidency not just against the Communists and the Trotskyites, but I would imagine another centre left / left party come 2007. Bear in mind that the PS is not like Labour in 1997, a party out of power for 18 years, but rather one that still thinks that red blooded socialism had a future in France and has gained both the premiership and the presidency rather more recently.

Still, interesting times.

Anonymous said...

bebopper, sweetie, you are overwrought and cross! Just try to still your foolish heart and tell us which polls give Dave a positive rating.

Names, please.

Anonymous said...

Verity look at some opinion polls all showing a Tory lead of between 5-9 points. Not enough but steady and improving.

I think it would be sensible to give DC a chance then give him hell if he later messes up. This is a better option than 5 more years of Labour, dont you think?

The Tory party have ditched unpopular leaders and PMs before, and in recent history. They are still very capable of doing it again.

This is the Tory way. Contrast this with our current elected dictatership. Tony Blair is more hated by the Labour movement then he is with the general public. Unyet he is hanging on until he wants to go.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your sentiments that David Cameron has it. While over here in Australia we only receive splatered coverage of British politics, which usually comprises of that unmistakable trio, Blair, Brown and Bloated Bureaucracy, the samples of Cameron make him out to be rather inspiring. As for the royal socialist, does her regal counternance come from actual electoral appeal or disenfranchisement with Chirac's impersonation with deGaulle?

Anonymous said...

Allez Ségolène...

Praguetory said...

Is "ideologically neutral" a compliment or just part of the branding exercise? Sounds to me like a follower rather than a leader. Although, I generally like Cameron's managerial style as it's less authoritarian than Howard's, I'm surely not alone in wanting a British leader with vision.

Anonymous said...

At this time of GCSE results and the expanded A list, your piece got me wondering about grade inflation.
What are the odds of an A* list being introduced? Would you be on it?

Johnny Norfolk said...

Iain you are correct.

They are both all about presentation, but what do they stand for, what do they intend to do.
I do wish we could move away with appearance and get down to some facts.
Do you know what DC stands for as I dont.

Anonymous said...

Ian, I think that your article is quite right regarding Royal's ability to control her image.
But seriously, you should check Ms Royal' program before you define her as a "blairite" or announce that she wants do ditch left-wing policies.
She doesn't, actually, especially regarding the economy. After all, one of her main proposition is that belonging to a trade union should become mandatory... How right-wing and blairite is that??
And of course she maintains the usual socialist vocabulary against market forces, globalization, America,... Most important, she has repeatedly announced her support to the socialist party program for 2007 which includes renationalization of the Electricity utility, abolition of all recent pension reforms (bringing back again the retirement age to 60), an extension to the field of the 35 hrs week,additional taxation on "over-profit"-making companies...
What she did to get a more centrist image was to announce some socially conservative propositions like a role of the army in the treatment of young offenders (even first offenders) or comments against homosexuals (although she corrected these afterwards). She's not courting the potential french blairites but the christian left,a category of voters more conservative than the socialist core vote but that share the same protectionist and left-wing economic credentials.

Chris, one of your French readers

Anonymous said...

Dave does not have a full head of hair. It is not retreating as fast as an Italian infantry battalion, but is clearly on the move.

What Dave has is head-turning ability, and he sounds ok. But there is as yet no reason to believe that his is anything other than a celebriddy thing, which is here today/gone tomorrow.

James at eParliament.tv said...

Iain, I love you, but Dave ain't got star quality. He's a gamma male who wants to be everyone's friend.

Now... wishing he had star quality is all very well and loyal, but a profoundly different thing.

I've been in a room with him (as leader) and he fails to electrify the crowd - apart from Tory groupies.

The test is simple: would he be a legend in any other walk of life? No.

Paul Evans said...

No Iain.

Anonymous said...


Your article seems to suggest that the best thing that a party leader can be is a clone of Tony Blair. I don't think you are alone in this - Cameron himself seems to have come to the same conclusion.

We already have a Tony Blair, and yet everyone - from the public to the major parties to commentators such as yourself - seem to wish we didn't.

Why is it that Blair is seen as the ideal politician and yet everyone is in agreement that he should go?

As a Tory, don't you think your party needs to find a new approach rather than just copying the old?

Anonymous said...

Verity, you are very, very wrong. Voters *do* like Cameron, far more than any Tory leader since Major and possibly Thatcher. Look at the polling.

The Daily Pundit said...

David Cameron? Star quality? My showbiz spies inform me that Simon Cowell has just ruled out Iain Dale as a guest judge on the X-factor.

You'll have to settle for the jungle with Ant and Dec.

Anonymous said...

Churchill had star quality, Cameron does not. Does Blair has star quality? The papers also printed pictures of him swimming (man boobs and all).

Anonymous said...

Check out the Google news search: http://news.google.co.uk/news?q=S%C3%A9gol%C3%A8ne%20Royal&ndsp=20&hl=en&lr=&sa=N&tab=wn

I wanted pictures of her not you! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Verity is right - last month's poll in the Telegraph gave Dave an approval rating of just 29% - only 1% greater than Blair and significantly lower than the approval rating for the CP (39%). Hardly a ringing endorsement.

As for Iain's contention that Dave and La Royale have much in common, could it be that they're both left of centre?

James at eParliament.tv said...

One more thought - would you ever hear a great leader described as having 'star quality'? It's so vacuous and meaningless... and not a compliment for Dave.

That phrase is saved for actors, pop stars, and celebrity riff raff.

Leaders are usually described with words like steely, determined, brave, singular, intelligent, visionary etc..

Anonymous said...

call me dave wrote:
Leaders are usually described with words like steely, determined, brave, singular, intelligent, visionary etc..

Dave C. isn't really a Leader, he's a Follower of focus groups and his all male inner cirlce.

And even his style of 'Followership' is a following of NuLabour and BLiar.

Mark my words, it will end in tears.

Little Black Sambo said...

"What Dave has is head-turning ability" - Mr facing-both-ways - and he is imitating Blair "in substance" - but there is no substance. Away with these computer-generated cravers of celebrity!

Anonymous said...

LB Sambo -

I didn't intend the "head-turning ability" to be a compliment, just a comment. And I don't rate celebrity above competence and integrity.

Anonymous said...

Polls say they DO like him.

Then he can unveil his policies and prepare to take office.............unless the real poll....the only poll that matters..............proves the others wrong.

Anonymous said...

You're good on British politics, Iain, but that's what you should stick to! Segolene Royal may very well win the French Socialist nomination for the Presidency in November, but she WON'T win and here's why. She's from a Catholic military family,even though she's repudiated that background. Not enough left-wing voters would support someone like that unless they pretended to be on the left of the Party, as Mitterand did in 1981. She won't, she's not the type. French polls also show her as weak on both security and social exclusion, the two themes Sarkozy will attack her most heavily on. Weep no tears for Segolene, mon ami. Sarko's the one we want! Yours,Jeremy Thomass

Anonymous said...

garypowell - thanks for your response. Given the level of sheer, vitriolic loathing of Blair, a 5 - 9 point lead is derisory. It should be around 18 - 20 points and growing daily.

Thank you also to other commentators Black Sambo, johnny norfolk, og and the others who have seen beyond the Blairesqueries to the vacuity on the other side and have voiced their disquiet.

I see Blair has helped himself to salaries and pensions to pay for 3,200 press officers to get his message out. According to The Telegraph, when Blair slithered in, there were only 300 press officers in government. Now there are over 3,000. And they still can't make the electorate love or respec' Tone 'n' the Blairina.

But this isn't translating into an advantage for the Tories. Why? People positively dislike Dave because he is not what they want. He is letting them down on a daily basis. He is unconnected to reality, is media driven (remember him touting that disabled kid around features editors for months?) and rather vacuous. He has no vision of Britain, other than a Britain with himself getting on and off planes; just like Tony.

He thinks the voters are stupid and will be driven to vote for him because he had his chest waxed. And he's having a windmill installed on his roof in Notting Hill.

I am sorry, Iain, but this is going to end in tears for the Conservatives and many popping Champagne corks for the BNP and UKIP.

Anonymous said...

They're both socialists?

Joey B said...

Oh, I hate it when socialists are hot looking women!