Monday, 26 March 2007

Cameron: Tosh on the telly

As a committed Liberal Democrat I have no natural affinity for David Cameron, and tonight's Dispatches on Channel 4 hardly elicited great sympathy. But it did not trigger much righteous indignation either. This is partly because it has all been said before, but also partly because it was a rather unnecessary hatchet job. I was unimpressed.

Cameron: Toff at the Top always threatened to be predictable. Peter Hitchens, the presenter, has form as a right-wing Cameron hater. However, I found the early part of his televised character assassination both distasteful and bemusing. On the one hand, I have little interest in David Cameron’s background. Though hardly likely to be invited to join the Bullingdon Set, I find the efforts of some to revise the tawdry class politics of the twentieth century both irritating and facile. Some of our better Prime Ministers attended Eton, and still more Oxford. If we do not expect prejudice against any one class, we should not encourage it against another. There are many things about David Cameron that one might criticise, but the fact that he is distantly related to the queen or that he went to public school should not be among them.

On the other hand, it seemed a rather strange line of attack for a man who openly described himself as a traditional conservative (with or without a capital C remained ambiguous). Peter Hitchens will do the Conservative Party no good by adding fuel to the fire of class division. One of John Major’s better aspirations was to create a classless society – understandable for a Brixton schoolboy. It may have contributed to the Conservative victory two years later, and it is certainly true that social mobility has declined under Labour. By dredging up this class-war nonsense, Peter Hitchens is undoubtedly doing great harm to the Conservatives, as well as cheapening the level of political debate in this country. One might expect better from a journalist on the Mail on Sunday!

It may be, of course, that this is his plan: either that it will require drastic surgery to get the party back on track; or that he feels that the party has betrayed its supporters so badly that it must be destroyed. Either way, this focus on class deserves little but contempt.

Other attacks in the programme at least had some substance. The antics of the Burlington Club (sic.) do sound distasteful, though the tone of high-minded disgust that Hitchens affects makes one wonder whether he spent his university years in the chapel choir. That Cameron used charm and contacts to climb to the top is hardly new in the Conservative Party, and other parties have probably witnessed such methods too. Cameron’s rise may have been undeserved, but this is not a concern because it is unfair so much as because it suggests he lacks the talent one would hope for in a future prime minister.

As for his ability to cut his cloth to fit the present mood of whomever he is addressing, it is an open goal for his opponents, and we will certainly use our boots to best effect.There is little doubt in my mind that David Cameron would be a sorry excuse for a Prime Minister. Peter Hitchens clearly agrees. Nonetheless his broadcast tonight added little that was new to a debate – and a British political landscape – that is in desperate need of more substance. It may not have done much for Cameron’s reputation, but neither did it do much for Hitchens’.


Peter Bancroft said...

"The antics of the Burlington Club (sic.) do sound distasteful, though the tone of high-minded disgust that Hitchens affects makes one wonder whether he spent his university years in the chapel choir"

This struck me as a good time to point out that Peter Hitchens spent his University time at York as an unwashed leader of the Socialist Worker Students on campus.

Amazingly hypocritical...

Anonymous said...

"I'm Bullingdon Davey, my train runs on gravy ... "

jp said...

Thanks for the review. Living in Wales any channel 4 prog is on seven weeks later at three in the morning, so it was good to read about it.