Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Tale of Two Columnists

Two ex Tory MPs have a go at David Cameron today in the newspapers - George Walden in the Telegraph and Michael Brown in the Independent. Their messages are similar, but written in very contrasting styles. Walden's column, as usual, is almost painful to read as he reveals how out of touch he is, while Michael Brown socks it to Cameron in a searingly honest way. Compare and contrast. First, Michael Brown...
So first, Mr Cameron, ditch the Lycra shorts and the cycling nonsense. Put the tie and jacket back on. Since image is supposed to be your thing it shouldn't be too difficult to start at least looking like a Prime Minister. Tell the munchkins who run your operations not to plan any more stunts. No more St George's flag on the back of the bike when England are playing in the World cup. No more daft painting and decorating exercises at the party conference when you got the pretty male MPs to appear paint-splattered in jeans and T-shirts doing up the local youth club. No more hugging hoodies. No more hugging huskies - at least not while Parliament is sitting and when your own constituency is under water. And if you really want to save Africa start with Zimbabwe. Somehow Mr Cameron always ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time while Mr Brown has the nous to know when not to desert the command post.

And now for George Walden...
The term "political game" is ceasing to be a metaphor. Playing at politics has never been a more attractive pastime. Just how hungry for real responsibility are the people in Mr Cameron's circle? Think of it, all those ghastly red boxes. Frightfully earnest. Opposition, on the other hand, is a bit of a wheeze. Conservatives will not welcome the whiff of defeat in the air. They want to retain their seats, and Mr Cameron has no difficulty imagining himself in Number 10. But that is not the same thing as a political party hungry for the power to run, and change, a country.

Walden rightly asks the question if the Conservatives are hungry enough for power, but he overplays his hand. He never experienced opposition when he was an MP, although he certainly played his part in ensuring that's where the Conservatives were headed. If he really thinks opposition is a "wheeze" he is delusional. Show me a Tory politician who prefers opposition to government and I'll happily stab myself in the eye with a compass. Whether they know how to get into a government is another thing. I hesitate to mention Alastair Campbell's Diaries again, but if you read them you'll see how hungry for power Labour were. So Walden is right to raise the problem, but unlike Lord Young, fails to come up with the solution.

Michael Brown's column is a bit of a rant. I am a great fan of his writing, and he deserves a wider audience than The Independent, but I think he also overplays his hand. What he is advocating is a policy of 'back to the future'. His most interesting point lies not in his advice to David Cameron, but his analysis of Gordon Brown...
Mr Brown was born in the same year as me, and while my hand simply will not go anywhere except in the Tory box on the ballot paper, I nevertheless find myself seduced by the mere appearance of Gordon Brown. I will resist his blandishments
- although it is becoming a hard fight - but others like me may not. He reinforces all this by reviewing the classification of cannabis and 24-hour drinking and by abandoning supercasinos. Mr Cameron may pose as the social liberal but it is the middle-aged, socially conservative Puritan, Mr Brown, who captures the sombre mood of today's middle class and middle aged.

Now if a hackneyed old right winger like Michael Brown can be seduced by Mr D'Arcy, one wonders how many other Tories are looking at Mr Brown in a new light at the moment. And there lies the challenge for David Cameron to meet when he returns from his holidays.


Archbishop Cranmer said...

...and I'll happily stab myself in the eye with a compass.

Mr Dale,

This is an instrument for showing the direction of magnetic north. It is usually enclosed in a smooth, rounded metal case, such that to stab yourself in the eye with it would do you no harm at all.

To stab yourself in the eye with a pair of compasses, however, would be quite a different matter...

chatterbox said...

I read both articles today and I have to say that Walden's analysis was waffle that had been painstaking dragged out to fill the whole column. In fact I was surprised that he had been a former politician because his analysis lacked the forensic feel of a person who had been in the thick of it, he sounded more like someone who had just taken a passing interest in political developments over recent years.
I always enjoy Michael Brown's views which show a lot more clarity about political life, it is obvious that he has experienced it from both sides as a politician and a journalist.
I think he missed an important fact when he waxed lyrical about Brown, many others of their age will not share his enthusiasm because they are the new generation of baby boomers who will have to work longer, pay more into their pensions, watch their student children start life with debt and then watch them unable to get on the property market.
They are a particular group which might not feel so enamoured with the former Chancellor in the way that some better off journalists do.

Unknown said...

Show me a Tory politician who prefers opposition to government

Hague for one.

Serf said...

Michael Brown obviously has a pension that was immune to Gordon's plunder.

Jim said...

Georges article was very interesting, he is obviously the archetypal Tory, who would go down on Thatcher….even today.

I like the use of the word “”dilettantism””. This has all the readers diving to the dictionary, I think that was his aim. smart arse

Jim said...

Iain said

“Michael Brown's column is a bit of a rant”.

What !!!!!!!...

Michaels article was very interesting, succinct, readable, but more importantly he has said what needed to be said. You should be praising, not complaining about his article. He has told you straight, and its up to you lot to either listen or ignore.

It was George’s article that was a rant, and was virtually unreadable. If you took advice from him, you can guarantee losing the election, describing the NHS as Stalinist, that’s really going to help.

gĂ©rer la grisaille, dilettantism, insouciance ……. What the hell are you talking about George, or were you just auditioning for the Countdown Panel.

Iain Dale said...

Jim, did you actually read what I wrote?! I am a huge fan of Michael Brown and praised him in the opening para, but I do think it was a bit of rant. That's not to say it was a bad column - it wasn't, but I just think he went too far in his criticism.

And by the way, George Walden HATES Thatcher with a passion.

Croydonian said...

"'dilettantism'. This has all the readers diving to the dictionary".

Speak for yourself Jim.

Sir-C4' said...

George Walden HATES Thatcher with a passion

I'll get my rusty hook ready then

Newmania said...

There are 800,000 who decide the general election if that .They are in the swing seats and they are that peculiar constituency of moderate Liberal . These people are the very ones who find Browns( entirely fraudulent) sucking up to the Yosemite Sam Mail reader ,exceedingly off putting ,and the slightly fascistic faux dignity, dated.

I am not the only one to notice that Brown is making progress in a sense where it doesn’t matter:

New Statesman editor John Kampfner says the Tories have been quietly pouring money into ( he means making progress) in the crucial marginal seats which could decide the outcome of the next General Election..

The harrumphing back to basics agenda which Brown is shamelessly selling might get votes but it will not get you seats . Old Tories may admire his pomposity but they will not vote Labour ...don`t be silly . Socially Conservative Labour voters horrified by Blair might be tempted back from the BNP though . If anyone he is directing his authoritarian demeanour at them.

So appealing to old Tories is the way to win an election although a little gravitas might not go amiss. Cameron is doing well where it counts.

I am delighted with you at the moment Mr. Dale . Your efforts over Ealing and the clearly personal way you took a period of reverses show me you heart is in it . Your treatment of the Livingstone spy was masterly...and how right of you to conclude “ If they are that worried its got to be Boris “ (See Max Hastings today’s Guardian). That you share my low opinion of George Walden pleases me further. He think s he is an intellectual he is in fact a grubby narcissistic oaf .

As with great generosity you allow assorted nit pickers to turn up and ritually criticise you day after day allow me to remind you that your efforts are admired and appreciated by your many readers . In fact the more I realise you are like me the greater is my delight in your every word .

Three cheers for Iain Dale

Hip Hip...

Sir-C4' said...

Here Here Newmania. Herr Dale and I have had our 'lovers tiffs' recently, but the pair of us and most of the bloggers who post comments on his blog both want the same thing; a Conservative government returned to the Commons with a strong majority and for Blair, Brown and their cronies to be put on trial at the Old Bailey for teason and crimes against humanity.

vanfuertes said...

This is getting serious. As utterly ridiculous as it sounds, might the Conservatives be better off with a change of leader? If Cameron takes many more of these knocks he'll be in an Iain Duncan Smith scenario, constant ridicule meaning nobody takes him at all seriously.

I take the point that there's hardly a ready-made replacement, but Liam Fox is a boring Scotsman...that might work?

Unknown said...

Iain: And by the way, George Walden HATES Thatcher with a passion.

Indeed he did. Wasn't he considered one of the "wet"s in the Thatcher years? Since he is firmly to the right of Cameron, what does that tell us about Cameron?

Johnny Norfolk said...

I know it is difficult for you Iain, but despite the differing styles they are both correct. If you cannot see that then there is little hope for the party.

You should not be concerning yourself with how they say it but what they say.
Please comment on the content not the style.

The tory party has become obsessed with style and presentation. It just wont do.

I understood what you meant by the compass. Mr Cranmer is getting a bit picky in his old age

Jim said...

Croydonian said...

"'dilettantism'. This has all the readers diving to the dictionary".

Speak for yourself Jim.

August 09, 2007 1:01 PM

Oh Sorry Croydonian, I’m sure you googled it.

Madasafish said...

Anyone like Michael Brown who asserts
"He reinforces all this by reviewing the classification of cannabis and 24-hour drinking and by abandoning supercasinos"

clearly does not think clearly.

There is one matter which is passing laws "classification of cannabis" and another doing something effective about it.

G Brown has :
cut drug work in prisons,
is presiding over record opium output in Afghanistan aimed at UK drug users,
and living in the UK at a time when drug ganags run many inner city areas with apparent impunity..(see Liverpool, London, Manchester,)

as for gun and knife crime,.. well the young deaths say it all.

And if you do get caught and go to prison (if a place is found), you'll get out early cos they are full...

So it's all spin which Michael Brown appears to be taken in with.

I despair: does Michael brown live in the real world or that of lawyers and laws passed = problem solved?

Don't answer. the man is clearly inneed of a long holiday...

Jim said...

You are spot on Johnny Nolfolk; if anything we are actually helping the Tories out, not something that I would do intentionally. It does seem they are in denial…fatal !!!!!! The true is Cameron cannot take his party with him, and his party are reluctant to listen to reason.

He cannot move to right as the nutters, john Redwoods et al, would swarm out of the wood work and place both feet in their collective mouths. Cannot hold the centre ground as it’s already occupied and the nutters will swarm out of the wood work, and cannot move to the centre right as the nutters will swarm out of the wood work. Ie the problem is the nutters, but unfortunately the nutters are the core, the nutters are all in safe seats, the nutters are well known thus the press prick their ears when they warble, nothing to do with press bias.

Cameron, even I will accept this, was doing the right thing; he just didn’t fathom the enormity of the task and has now come a cropper. David Davis would have been a better choice, but it’s too late now.

Jim said...

Jorgen said...

Indeed he did. Wasn't he considered one of the "wet"s in the Thatcher years?( George ) Since he is firmly to the right of Cameron, what does that tell us about Cameron?

August 09, 2007 1:58 PM

If George Walden was a wet, but is dryer than Cameron, that makes Cameron a member of the Rainbow Allaince

Archbishop Cranmer said...

I understood what you meant by the compass. Mr Cranmer is getting a bit picky in his old age


His Grace happens to love the English language, having contributed greatly to it, and is slightly aggrieved when it is even moderately misused, and rather more irritated when it is positively abused.

The correction was simply meant to bring a smile to Mr Dale's face.

His Grace does nt wsh 2 c blgng rduced 2 th lvls of ignrnce wtnssd in txtng.

He rather accords with Mr Croydonian on this, who informed Mr Jim that he should speak for himself when the latter presumed to speak on behalf of everyone, projecting his ignorance of the meaning of 'dilettante' upon all other readers.

Many bloogers are very well-educated, erudite, and highly literate. Mr Jim may not be, and there is no harm in occasionally correcting errors.

Mr Dale, along with some others, has today learnt the difference between compass and a pair of compasses. That is progress.

Liberal Republican said...

"Show me a Tory politician who prefers opposition to government and I'll happily stab myself in the eye with a compass."

Can I use that as quote of the day for my blog? hehe

Newmania said...

Jim , believe me the Croydonian tribe dandle their infants upon their knee saying “izzoo a dilettante fop. In fact Croydonian is an adept at matters hippopotomonstrosesquipedalian and not to be too tetrapylotomilogocal about it you should by now be suspecting me of charientism,.

Johnny Norfolk said...

Dear Mr Cranmer.

Sorry for being to picky to you.

2 wrongs do not make a write o sorry right.

Tapestry said...

Conservatives hunger for power not because they want to face the constant abuse, false accusations and barbed comments of NuLab apparatchiks and media sycophants.

We desire power, purely as it is the only way to mend our woefully broken society. This will not be a jolly jaunt chaps, but a miserable grinding route march through muddy jungle with blood shed at every step.

Media columnists have no understanding of the deep sadness people feel in the state of our country after ten long years of mismanagement by NuLab. The only compass that needs stabbing anywhere is the often mentioned moral compass into Gordon Brown's cold calculating uncaring heart.

The Reverend Doctor said...

The two articles seem to me to be equally incisive. As I posted yesterday on pb, Cameron has failed in 5 ways:

1. Misjudging Brown. As my late father (once a senior Tory) told me 'Brown is formidable, and we're making a terrible mistake if we think otherwise.'
2. Becoming nasty. His tone and demeanour have meant he is not longer Mr Nice, but is Mr Nasty.
3. Spin over substance. That's the perception, with some justification.
4. Appalling judgement. This is the real killer. Blair got away with No.3 because he had great political skill. Cameron has the spin combined with atrocious lack of judgement: from huskied to hoodies, from Tony Lit to Rwanda he is displaying a tremendous ability to make serious errors. The flooding was a classic example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
5. Completely failing to elucidate what the Tories stand for, probably because they no longer have a credo of any sort. His chamaleon tendencies are no 'Clause 4' displays, but absurd attempts at re-branding that leave the party floudering around with a total identity crisis.

You may not like the above points, but I'm convinced they are right and it's why I don't think the Tories have a prayer next time. In fact, if it goes on like this they are heading for something more akin to 1997 than 2005 ...

Sea Shanty Irish said...

Agree totally with analysis the good (if possibly heretical) rev. doc.

Though don't think situation is as dire as 1997 or 2001 for David Cameron and Conservative Party. For one thing, DC & Tories still have some excellent cards:

a. As this blog shows, most rightwingers are gritting their teeth and giving David Cameron their support and votes; UKIP will be as popular as RALPH NADER was the 2nd time around to lefty Democrats the 2004 US presidential election.

b. Sheer longevity of Labour regime means Conservatives will be garnering MORE votes at next GE from beyond their 1997-2001 core vote.

c. Gordon Brown's poll numbers have to dip sometime; also possibility he'll make a serious (if not terminal) blunder, likely over something that starts out as small.

d. Lib Dems under Ming the Merciful are failing to mount a major threat to Tories, but will still deny Labour some crucial seats, thus blunting anti-Tory strategic voting.

e. Most of the assets that made David Cameron a hit when he was first elected Tory leader still exist, though time is awasting to end their squandering . . .

SO the most likely outcome is NOT a 1997 or 2001 thrashing, but instead a gentleman's 2nd-place failure by "David Cameron's Conservatives" similar in effort and outcome (but not feeling) to the 2005 showing of "Michael Howard's Conservatives".

M. Anon said...

Tory politicians who prefer Opposition to Government? Leigh, Brady, every disloyal idiot who doesn't know the correct channels for criticism is through the Whips and over a whisky with the leader, not splashed all over the BBC.

Prepare those compasses....

Newmania said...

As this blog shows, most rightwingers are gritting their teeth and giving David Cameron their support and votes

That is where you are mistaken although your conclusion is the safe bet. This blog gets few Conservatives in the comments section and when they do comment they are almosy universally behind the leader.

You have believed what the State controlled media would like you to and their campaign of talking up every little squeak hardly has to be spun by the Labour stooges . Partly its absence of news but in the case of the BBC and the Guardian they are fully behind Brown and if you do not discount for that you will understand very little .

Additionally you do not know anything about the distribution of types of voters in swing seats and Cameron is very much stronger on the crucial areas. Labour have just woken up to this but it shard for them toreact because Brown has gone so anti Liberal.

Paul Burgin said...

As for the Mr D'Arcy comparison Iain, remember that he was the one who saved the Bennett's honour and was a fundamentally decent bloke compared to the dash and abandon of Mr Wickham

Steven_L said...

Socially conservative? Gordon Brown? I don't think there is such a thing anymore. 'Socially conservative' just means nasty and bigotted in most peoples minds these days, it is no longer an acceptable view-point to hold as far as the electorate are concerned.

I vote we just start calling them 'the red ones', 'the blue ones' and 'the yellow ones'. Labour don't give a toss about the working classes, the Conservatives are not really all that conservative and the liberals certainly are not liberal.

David Yendley said...

Iain Dale had expressed disbelief at the notion of Tory politicians who prefer opposition to government. In an astute reply, M Anon said that these exist and are all those disloyal idiots who do not know that the correct channels for criticism are through the Whips and over a whisky with the leader, not splashed all over the BBC.

Public debate has to be involved as well, but serious party members should conduct it rationally, speaking in moderate terms, not in the bull in the china shop style, characterised by Graham Brady’s intervention in the Tory Education policy debate. Yelled slogans and ill-digested dogma not only set the media pack off in pursuit, but also, as in this case , effectively block consideration of an issue of vital importance.

And public debate should be two-sided, with the leadership listening before any voices need to be raised. Many Northern Conservatives would expect their leader to pay some attention to the effects of Blair’s disastrous immigration policy and to face up to the less attractive realities of other issues. On the question of the introduction of passports, David Cameron, should not assume that Tory support is unanimous. Gordon Brown’s claim that half of the Tory MPs are in favour is probably true.

Only an idiot with suicidal tendencies would try to change the leadership before the next election. Until then the troops have to establish their discipline. In return the General has to ensure he is walking in exactly the same direction as his men.