I enjoy elections so the current UK
general election fight has got me wondering, after the TV debates, what would I be doing or thinking if I were David Cameron?
1. Inspiration. Cameron has got to sell a vision of a future
government that inspires people. He has to find a way of communicating his
plans so that people perceive the effect of his policy would be to create a
society people want to see. Inspiring people by seeming empathetic in a way
which encourages people to come on board is the heart of leadership in the
2. Core themes. Politics is a difficult balance between
creating memorable sound bites and portraying the idea that you have a
detailed, thought through plan. So how about reducing it to three points:
Empowering people: seeking to help people help
themselves without the interference of the state, changing the benefits culture
so that it acts as a safety net not a fly trap, reducing quangos in favour of
local communities taking their own decision. Encouraging people to be entrepreneurs
and make a difference in the world. Giving people the opportunity to excel and
aim high through the provision of quality education.
Realistic economics: we all know we are in financial
difficulties and, if the max level of sustainable tax take in UK society is in
the region of 40% GDP government spending will have to come down to less than
that level. There is a potential narrative though for saying ‘the previous
government behaved as though politics was about spending interest free loans,
but we will treat the mess as paying off the mortgage; steadily, deliberately
Sustainable future: The real issue is not
looking back at the past but looking forward to the future, building a society
which is sustainable economically and environmentally. A future based on
justice, whether concerning immigration and asylum seekers or law and order in
our towns and cities. A future where we care for one another through the
provision of health care and social services.
3. Detailed competence. If Cameron is to go for the vision
thing he also needs to show that he has a team around him who can deal competently
with the detail. That will enable him to say things like, “we need to do more
than focus on the details, though that is important, we also need to focus on
the trajectory, the direction in which we want to go.” His major handicap is
that George Osborne doesn’t come across well; personally I would make much more
use of Ken Clark, stressing business enterprise and development as the way
forward, William Hague on the more serious political shows and Eric Pickles on
populist formats. Cameron also has to give the impression that he has mastered
the detail and this detailed understanding lies behind his sound bites
and slogans. They need photo ops not just of classrooms and groups of young
mothers but among groups of business people and factory workers; with sound
clips showing them answering penetrating questions put by members of the
Perhaps a few policy speaches to invited audiences where he can also point out that maintaining NIC's isn't taking money out of the economy but leaving it with businesses to encourage employment and economic growth.
4. Gordon Brown. Politics is about personality as well as policy. And politics is therefore about neutralising the appeal of your
opponent. If Labour win it will probably be over issues of trust and risk.
Cameron has to show that whilst Brown has good mastery of detail, he is
sometimes wrong (but doesn’t admit it), often dithers and always calculates in
contrast to himself as a person of conviction with an instinct for what is right.
“The prime minister acts like a medieval knight in armour, creaking about,
clunking his metal fist as he seeks to jab anyone who doesn’t agree with him;
even those in his own party. Personally I want to build a consensus, to lead
people so we can rise to the challenges we face together empowering people,
being realistic economically and building a sustainable future.”
5. Nick Clegg: You can't pick policy's like the kid in a sweet shop if you plan to run a government. It takes more than a few tables at the back of the manifesto to show your policy is thought through. For example raising personal allowances costs an enourmous sum of money but doesn't help the poorest people, neither does it promote jobs or wealth creation – it's a great sweetie but a hopeless plan.
Hmmm, I’m sounding like a politician and a tory strategist. Roll on May 6th.