Some journalists court controversy wherever they go.
Some remain eloquent and cerebral.
Andrew Rawnsley manages to achieve both.
Tonight, the Observer’s Political Commentator and Associate Editor presented Dispatches: Cameron Uncovered, shining a light on the modern Conservative Party. It followed ground previously trodden in Rawnsley’s book The End of the Party, this time turning on David Cameron and chums.
Understandable parallels were drawn between Cameron’s media persona and Tony Blair’s ascent to power.
We now know Blair to be style over substance, favouring actions over detail and rhetoric over evidence. Cameron is cut from the same political cloth, enjoying the medium of television, never more at home than when wowing an audience.
A crucial difference is the historical and political context, and this is at the crux of why Britain has yet to warm to Cameron and his faceless neophytes. New Labour stormed Downing Street on the back of 18 years of Tory power. 18 years of broken unions, unsavoury MPs and uncertain leadership. Here was Blair, crusading for our rights, for a new Britain, a new dawn…well, we know what happened next.
The fact remains that the Labour government has limped, rather than sprinted to the finishing line of this year’s general election. But Cameron doesn’t have the benefit of public optimism that Blair had carrying him into the landslide 1997 election.
Britain is wearied by recession and by revelations like the expenses scandal. The public do not trust their elected representatives anymore. Pre-1997, Labour made much of their squeaky-clean MPs in contrast to the sleazy and clapped out Tory counterparts.
Today no such disctinction can be made. Cameron’s pretense of a party representing the right choice has been stripped down to a cheap veneer. With hindsight we wistfully remember how so many of us were credulous to Blair’s oratorical skill. For the Tories, this distrust is spreading before the election has even happened.
It is said that parties tend to return to traditional policies during times of economic hardship. Health, provisions and security are all prioritised. Plainly, this attitude also manifests itself in our political leaders.
Britain is sick of Labour. But where to turn? Not to the Tories, who seem to offer similar policy but with a leader so prepped in media training that no one believes a word. Not to the Liberal Democrats, who have missed the ship of capitalising on the two major parties’ failure to capture the public imagination.
No, in times like these, polls show that we’re closer than ever to picking Gordon and co.
The last 13 years haven’t been perfect, but best stick to the devil we know.