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david cameronHas Cameron become even more Blairite than Blair?

David Cameron’s speech to the Open University yesterday marked another major change in the way that the Conservative leader approaches politics, it showed that he passionately cares about the political landscape, and that he knows how to lead and shape the news agenda (at least until Big Ben “boings” for Julie Etchingham). His political antennae remain acutely aware of the anger, frustration, and “stuff the lot of you” response by the general public to the MPs expenses scandal, and he knew too that to maintain the momentum that he has built in the opinion polls that he needs to remain ahead of the game in terms of leadership, strategy, and “looking the part”, in short he needs to look like a credible alternative to Gordon Brown.

As such he succeeded, his reformist speech grabbed the headlines all day with it’s texts taken mainly from Conservative MEP Dan Hannan’s Direct Democracy, and The Plan co-authored by Hannan and Westminster MP Douglas Carswell, it was a wide ranging monologue which touched upon electoral reform and the power of Prime Ministers, but more importantly it ticked the libertarian boxes of devolving power “from the powerful to the powerless” with it’s calls for direct democracy, open primaries, more powers and accountability for local councils,  reducing the number of MPs in fixed term Parliaments, and redistributing power from the EU back to Britain. I thought yesterday that he’d skirted around the issue, but a closer reading of the text of his speech revealed a direct challenge to the EU and to the British people, there is a problem and it needs sorting, the public are going to be asked to help:

It’s no wonder people feel so disillusioned with politics and Parliament when they see so many big decisions that affect their lives being made somewhere else.

So a progressive reform agenda demands that we redistribute power from the EU to Britain and from judges to the people.

We will therefore hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, pass a law requiring a referendum to approve any further transfers of power to the EU, negotiate the return of powers, and require far more detailed scrutiny in Parliament of EU legislation, regulation and spending.

And we will introduce a British Bill of Rights to strengthen our liberties, spell out the extent and limit of rights more clearly, and ensure proper democratic accountability over the creation of any new rights.

This looks startling to me, and the sort of language that I want to hear from a British political leader, once again he is articulating what the majority of people feel is necessary, a renegotiation of our EU terms and conditions, a return of power to Westminster, and the ability to run our affairs as we wish, with a much clearer vision of what our relationship with the EU ought to be.

Now this all looks and sounds good but will at all add up to much more than a hill of beans after the next general election? Mike Smithson at Political Betting had some sharp remarks to make about it yesterday:

I am coming to the view that when it comes to tapping into the public mood and dominating the news agenda David Cameron is even smarter than the past-master, the leader that Labour foolishly sacked, Tony Blair.

That may be so, and would be an electoral bonus for the Conservatives, but he goes on:

Just consider what’s happening at the moment. There’s just one week and one day left in the campaign for five yearly election of members of the European Parliament and yet another news cycle goes by without the EU being an issue. For the reaction to the Telegraph’s MP expenses exposes and now the talk about constitutional change has simply pushed the core matter that people will be voting on off the agenda.

For David Cameron and the Tories – for whom the EU issue always has the potential to explode – this must be like Christmas coming earlier. The last thing he wants talking about is the party position on referendums on the Lisbon treaty or the grouping that his party’s MEP plan to belong to in Brussels after the June 4th election.

Mike, like myself, must have missed that all important passage above in his first reading of the speech.

As an example of his skill in agenda-changing his article in today’s Guardian is a classic. He’s managing to move on from the change narrative of electoral reform to more Tory-friendly territory – the power of Number 10 Downing Street.

That was of course until News at Ten, when up pops Julie Etchingham to tell us all about MacKay’s wife Julie Kirkbride (part of a double team who must both be ‘ex-communicated’) – BOING!

Cameron can often sound convincing, but that does not necessarily make him a conviction politician.

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Written by curly

May 27, 2009 at 9:26 am

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