Congratulating Some People Can Hurt–Especially When It’s For Being A Sneaky Weasel
January 8, 2015
by Martin Odoni
Oh, it’s going to hurt saying this. Hasn’t David Cameron been impressively clever today? It’s definitely one of his best moments as Prime Minister and I think we should be generous and let him enjoy it.
I refer to his rather out-of-nowhere ultimatum to Ofcom that he would withdraw from this year’s electoral debates unless the Green Party were allowed to take part as well. I really hate to say it, but it was a brilliant move. He put it in terms that make him sound like a truly democratic statesman, by invoking the very real issue of how unfair it would be to exclude the Greens while allowing the Liberal Democrats (less electorate support) and the UK Independence Party (no seats at the last General Election) to take part. Quite right, and it does sound wonderfully magnanimous and statesmanlike.
Of course, that’s not the real reason why Cameron has done this. He cares not one iota about fairness, as his record in office, either on electoral matters or on economic ones, makes all-too-obvious.
The real reason for this new stance can be summed up by the sentence, “No matter which door you open, Dave’s in first.” And this is because, whatever response Ofcom and the BBC offer, Cameron will be in a stronger position for it. If they say yes, the Greens will have a new platform on national TV from which Natalie Bennett can attempt to appeal to the disillusioned Left in this country, potentially splitting the Labour or Liberal Democrat vote. If they say no, on the other hand, Cameron has ammunition with which to demand that UKIP should not be allowed to enter the debates either. If Nigel Farage is left out, it potentially reduces the splitting effect UKIP can have on the Tory vote. And Cameron would even have a pretext for withdrawing from the debates altogether, which, given how uncomfortable such occasions often are for a leadership incumbent, would be tempting in itself. Remember Gordon Brown’s almost-obsequious repetition of “I agree with Nick” five years ago? Embarrassing.
Yes, Cameron’s motivations have been weaselly and cynical, and he might even prove to be quite cowardly, but credit where it’s due, his move has been excellent politics, and clever.
Ugh, that was not fun to write.
By the way, on the infernal subject of media-bias, I need to draw attention to the following text, which was in the BBC website’s initial report – linked to above – earlier today; –
“Nick Robinson said Mr Cameron believed people would think it was unfair if the Greens were excluded from proposed debates which included Mr Farage.“
This text was substantially changed a little after 7pm, but I have decided to include the earlier sentence on here, so we have recorded yet another example of the BBC reporting doubtful Tory pretexts as undiluted fact. Typical of Nick Robinson in particular to ascribe acts of unashamed Tory self-interest to altruistic motives. But then, a BBC controlled entirely by ex-Tories has no shame either.