‘I think the Honourable Gentleman does need a new approach’. By Owen Grey
There was nothing unique about the Prime Minister’s retort over the despatch box at Douglas Carswell MP. After all, he has told dears to ‘calm down’ and shadow Chancellors to ‘shut up’. But the reaction of some Conservative backbenchers to the Prime Minister’s comments highlights the real controversy. Zac Goldsmith MP claimed the PM absolutely dismissed Mr Carswell’s question and heralded this particular PMQs as ‘disappointing’. Journalists were quick to seize on the mounting tension between the Prime Minister and his backbenchers, as it becomes increasingly apparent that Mr Cameron has failed to live up to their standards in government. The barrage began over the EU referendum debacle, as the Eurozone faltered and assumed control over member state governments, calls became louder for an extensive evaluation of Britain’s relationship with Europe. The Prime Minister and his government dismissed calls for a referendum, citing the unfavourable economic circumstances of the time as a reason to sit tight and remain. His mishandling of the debate with the call for a three line whip solidified the conviction in many that this was a pro-European Prime Minister and that his Euro-sceptic pre-election language was nothing but hot air, a vote winner, a means to seize the keys to Number Ten.
The Prime Minister has had a shaky relationship with the 1922 committee since assuming power. The uneasy feeling of being in a coalition sowed the seeds for discontent, leaving the Prime Minister in a position where if he failed to live up to every back bench expectation from there on, he would be branded ‘the enemy’. This is the situation we are in now. The gulf between the government and the backbenchers cannot be repaired, for as long as the coalition exists, the Prime Minister will be seen as a friend of Clegg, not a friend of Carswell. His failure to address the concerns of many of his MPs in the past two years has painted him in a poor light. His inaction is seen as arrogance. Many see his inability to give adequate air time to certain MPs as a means to stay in power and take as many cosy decisions as possible. Why give potential troublemakers a platform to air their views? In his two years in power, it is clear the Prime Minister is more concerned with his personal legacy than with being a proper parliamentarian. Whilst he toured the International stage, drumming up foreign support for British business, he neglected the true arena of politics at Westminster. The Prime Minister, a former PR man for John Major, has failed to break from old habits; he treats his job as an advertisement campaign. Note how the Chancellor, Home Secretary and even the Deputy Prime Minister have had to defend the tough decisions to the public. It is as if the Prime Minister is part-time, popping in and out to check on the shop from time to time. He is hardly worthy of comparison to prodigious predecessors like Winston Churchill or Margaret Thatcher, two people who would consistently strive to be involved at every level to the point of nearly suffocating Ministers. Nor does he have the banal, but meticulous manner of his former boss, John Major. If he continues on this approach, regardless of how long he clings to power, his legacy will not be impressive but simply uninteresting. In his quest to be remembered for greatness, he is fading into the annals of history rapidly.
The solution to his troubles is straightforward. Listen to the backbenchers, stop gallivanting around the world and be a Conservative Prime Minister. The Coalition is irrelevant, it can be broken and the country can move on. An ineffectual opposition is providing the PM with the greatest opportunity- to cut Lib Dem ties and complete his image as a thoroughly Conservative Prime Minister. So Douglas Carswell and others do not need to get a sense of humour, David Cameron simply needs a better approach.