Friday, 14 October 2011

Not a game changer

Valencia: Reuters rang me up yesterday evening to ask for comment on Liam Fox's resignation. My view was and is that it is not a game changer for the Coalition Government.

It is clearly an embarrassing episode, but Dave has handled it as well as he could in the circumstances. It is not indicative of the kind of sleaze which haunted the last years of the Major Government. Indeed, these days to get away with two Cabinet resignations in eighteen months is not bad going given the rapacity of the media pack.

Of course, one potential future problem is that Dr Fox could act as a focus on the backbenches for discontented right-wingers.

The Government would also have preferred stability in the defence ministry given that it has been critical of the turnover of ministers there under Labour. This made it more difficult to get a grip on the cost effectiveness of defence spending.

Phillip Hammond has been an effective transport minister, facing down opposition to the high speed train proposal. He is also on the right of the party so the balance of the Cabinet has not been changed. His replacement, Justine Greening, is also a rising talent.

So there has been some reputational damage, but it is relatively limited, certainly in terms of any lasting effect.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

President Dave offers leadership

Leadership was a central theme of David Cameron's speech to the Conservative Party conference this afternoon: leadership provided by him in difficult times. Apparently even the podium looked presidential.

It's a reasonable enough strategy given that the prime minister is the most popular of the political leaders (well in England anyway), not a very tough barrier to surmount. And he does run ahead of the party.

David Cameron also paraded his own liberal credentials, supporting gay marriage and emphasising the importance of overseas development aid even in tough times, something not many Conservatives - or voters - are keen on.

As I drove up to Yorkshire listening to the speech I passed a pub offering 'credit crunch lunches'. It is not easy to offer a positive message in such perilous times. But the prime minister emphasised the need for a 'can do' spirit to overcome excessive pessimism.

The speech was a bit short on content, but what was needed was to provide as rousing a message as was possible in the circumstances and that was largely achieved.