It never rains but it pours…

There is no escape

On the steps of the presidential offices in Kigali, sheltered by a pergola from the burning midday sun, David Cameron turned to face a Rwandan television reporter. First, she wanted to know about his efforts to out-trump Labour on international development, and then she asked: “What do you have to say about continuing with your visit to Rwanda when part of your constituency is currently devastated by floods?”

Even the journos in Rwanda have started taking the piss.

Water Taxi for Cameron, anyone?

12 thoughts on “It never rains but it pours…

  1. What’s he supposed to do? Stand there and look caring? Personally drain Witney? The trip to Rwanda was booked months ago – if he abandoned it for the sake of a photo-op in Witney, the same people decrying him for not returning would be decrying him for abandoning his African trip for the sake of matching Gordon ‘I have personally been to Gloucester’ Brown.

  2. I hate to say it but I’m not sure what difference David Cameron could make to his constituencies problem if he was at home. The government on the other hand can, its their job and currently their responsibility to act.

    If Cameron was here he’d just be criticised for spin or using it as an photo opportunity which would detract from the very real situation on the ground.

    Perhaps it’s better that he’s out of the country the last few days?

  3. What this illustrates, Tim, is the pitfalls of current Tory strategy in building the bulk of their public profile around Cameron, not to mention the relative paucity of talent available to Cameron in putting together his shadow cabinet.

    Even without Brown’s involvement, the environment portfolio currently rests with Hilary Benn who has pretty fair public profile already from his work with DfID, not to mention the boost he would have got from being a contender for deputy leadership.

    The Tories have Peter Ainsworth to bat for them, who’s pretty much ‘Peter Who?’ so far as most people are concerned.

    Compare that with the list of Environment Ministers during the Thatcher government – Heseltine, Tom King, Patrick Jenkin, Kenneth Baker, Nick Ridley and Chris Patten. Had something like this situation arisen under Thatcher its doubtful that the media would have been overly concerned by her being out the country on a pre-arranged trip for a couple of days given the calibre of most of those MPs who would have picked up the ball due to their Ministerial brief.

    With a couple of exceptions – Hague, Davis and, perhaps, Osborne – the Tories are in the position with the media where if something kicks off, it’s Cameron they want or nothing, well, nothing much worth reporting given the lack of public profile afforded to most of his shadow ministerial team.

  4. Ah well that’s absolutely true – the shadow cabinet does look decidedly low on star quality. But that is at least partly due to the fact that politicians rarely grow in opposition. Look at the first Labour cabinet – there were a few who had made their names in opposition, but many who hadn’t and were unknowns. Some (like John Reid for example) had their status enhanced by government, some (like Frank Dobson) didn’t.

    The leader is almost bound to dominate in these circumstances: Tony Blair certainly did.

  5. Perhaps, but I think its still possible to build a reputation in opposition on the back of putting in good performances in the House, especially if an up and coming minister can also manage to stand out as a crowd pleaser at the Annual Conference.

    Its in the nature of the lobby hacks to be constantly on the look out for the ‘next big thing’ although it might to true to say that these days they do tend to look more for the bravura performance than for consistency and good set pieces for aspiring stars of the future do tend to be in rather short supply.

  6. Yes – and a good example of that would be David Davis, whose reputation comes from his performaces as shadow home sec. But, especially recently, media attention has been drawn almost exclusively to how Brown is faring as Prime Minister – a comparison drawn only to Cameron.

    You’re certainly right though that the shadow cabinet lack brilliance – the only Tories with any degree of stardust are Cameron and Boris Johnson, neither of whom are exactly top-heavy with gravitas.

    Cameron against Blair was a battle of like against like; Cameron against Brown is like watching Middlesex play against Celtic: who wins rather depends on what game we all agree we’re watching.

  7. Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t I suspect. Some of shadow Cabinet are quite good. Tim Duncan is quite a polished media performer, him vs. Quentin Letts after the defection on Newsnight was entertaining as Duncan laughed at him, whilst pointing out the hypocrisy. Andrew Lansley is also isn’t bad, but he is more of a policy wonk. But by focusing on Cameron the Conservatives avoid the shadow cabinet, and avoid having to have policies which at this stage in the electoral cycle is not such a bad idea strategically, if difficult to do well.

  8. I still think the most telling,and prophetic, comment on the Tory Party in many years was John Mortimer’s withering assessment of John Major – given on the day after he was elected party leader – in which commented that the Tories had gone overnight from being piranhas to prawns.

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