Sunday, 19 July 2015

Cameron the unbriefed, setting new standards in the idleness stakes

David Cameron is making up policy on ISIS “on the hoof” according to a senior member of his own party, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Defence, Julian Lewis.

Julian Lewis, leading Tory, concerned about Tory incoherence
He’s worried that the government’s Syria policy is incoherent as a result.

The only surprise is that Lewis might think this is somehow news. It has been Cameron’s way ever since he became Prime Minister: he blunders into situations, making up his position as he’s speaking, and then having to reverse himself later.

This is reminiscent of no one so much as Dubya. The former US president, now viewed in some quarters as officially the worst in history, couldn’t read a proper briefing paper. Staff therefore had to prepare summaries for him. He was never, therefore, fully briefed on any subject on which he chose to pronounce.

Cameron can, no doubt, read a briefing paper, but he shows no sign of actually taking their contents in. Instead, he prefers to improvise, perhaps partly in the belief that this shows his versatility and decisiveness: the man of action who can take clear-sighted decisions on the spur of the moment. In reality, sadly, all it does is set him up for humiliating retreat.

Early in his first premiership, he wandered into a 2011 meeting of the EU discussing steps to support the Euro, and applied his “veto”, only to discover that the Eurozone group could continue meeting without him, and leaving him only with the capacity to “veto” their use of EU offices for their discussions; with bad grace, he realised that this would just be acting like a dog in the manger, and grudgingly allowed them to do even that.

Equally, he decided to sell of Forestry Commission land, only to change his mind, or to stop supporting school sports, later announcing that he wouldn’t after all. And the list goes on.

Specifically on Syria, he decided in 2013 that Britain should support a US initiative to launch missile attacks against Assad’s government. That would have meant in effect supporting the jihadists who have, since, set up the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Fortunately, he was forced to back down by a parliamentary vote. As a result, the US too understood that the initiative was ill-conceived and dropped it. Later on, of course, the US started bombing ISIS instead, in effect helping the Assad government that they had previously planned to target.

David Cameron, man of action
A little more thought might be helpful
The latest complaints from Julian Lewis have been prompted by Cameron’s announcing this weekend that Britain should “step up and do more” in the campaign against ISIS. A comment that he has, as usual, made without seeming to have thought through the consequences or decided on the means. And, naturally, without consulting anybody else.

Lewis thinks this is incoherent. I’ll say. But what on earth can anyone expect if policy is being managed by a Prime Minister who seems to find it simply too much trouble to understand what he’s trying to address?

It’s amusing that the talk at the moment is all about the difficulties Labour is having electing a new leader. The real problem, it seems to me, is not in Labour but among the Conservatives. And their leader, sadly, is the present holder of the post of Prime Minister…

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