Magazine article The Spectator

Camerons's Tragic Flaw - the PM'S Problem Is Not Poshness , but Impoliteness

Magazine article The Spectator

Camerons's Tragic Flaw - the PM'S Problem Is Not Poshness , but Impoliteness

Article excerpt

Premierships do not end in failure, as Enoch Powell once asserted, but in tragedy. They start with a beaming figure disappearing behind the door of No. 10 - even Edward Heath, immortalised now as the Incredible Sulk, entered with a radiant grin. And they end with a haunted shadow of a politician creeping out to a waiting car, his every character flaw having been chiselled to destruction.

Over the past week, the tragedy of David Cameron has become apparent. It may be a few years before he leaves office, but from here onwards the narrative is clear. Dave is a man who will finally be undone by his failure to understand that it is his natural aloofness, not his class background, that alienates the people who should be his friends.

Any politician can look uncomfortable when required to eat, drink or play for the cameras. But when Dave seeks to ingratiate himself with the masses he exudes a sense of fear. The early attacks on his Bullingdon background have clearly eaten away at him.

His worry, from the moment he became Conservative leader, was that the public might reject him over his privileged background.

He attempted to put this right by rolling up his sleeves, pedalling his bike and biting into Cornish pasties (in spite of last week's embarrassment over the nonexistent stall on Leeds station, there is video evidence of him doing just this on an Oxfordshire market during the 2010 election campaign, before putting the thing back in a paper bag and folding it over like a piece of hazardous waste for incineration). But while he attempted to establish himself as the social equal of the proletariat, he developed something that will ultimately prove far more destructive to his career than a posh background: a sense of moral superiority over his natural supporters.

Poshness and aloofness are entirely different things. You can be the most frightful snob and yet still manage to engage with people around you. The late Lord St John of Faws-ley was the perfect example: he was charming to everyone, wherever they fitted in his sense of social strata. On the other hand, you can be working class, lower middle class - even cherish an image as a man of the people - and yet carry with you a deep sense of disdain towards those with whom you work. That is aloofness - and it is Cameron's weakness.

As soon as he became Conservative leader, he decided that his own backbenchers, and the envelope-stuffers of the constituencies, were an impediment to his progress. …

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