Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Tools down - PM makes a dent in our GDP rates

Harold Wilson was memorably accused during an election a generation ago by Willie Whitelaw of “going round the country stirring up apathy”.

David Cameron is doing something much more dangerous, going round the country stirring up low productivity. Goodness knows how many precision gauges and laser telescoping ballbars the skilled employees at engineering firm Renishaw in Gloucestershire could have completed for export while they were waiting for – not to mention listening to – the Prime Minister today.

It’s in the nature of these Cameron Direct events that the management ensure that the workforce are in their seats long before he arrives. Today, although he spoke for about half an hour, this whole process meant being off the job for 90 minutes. Time is money, Prime Minister.

Are companies like Renishaw not supposed to be leading us out of what he again reminded us was “the Great Recession” inflicted in the last decade? 

To be fair, Cameron is sensitive to this, it seems. Promoting the Government’s programme to filling in 2 million potholes, he described how he had asked a worker doing just that to a “huge” one in his constituency how long it would take. “It depends, Mr Cameron, how long you waste your time talking to me,” the man had replied.

But anyway, Cameron was worth waiting for today since he unveiled his startling new weapon against the Ukip threat in the European and local elections: “The politics of the answer.” At first sight this concept seems a little nebulous. It’s not after all, as if political parties generally frame their manifestos as a series of interrogatives.

Shall we scrap Trident? Shall we put up taxes? Shall we build HS2? Vote for us, the party that poses the tough questions. Put us into office and we’ll ask you what to do.

But the PM was contrasting the new concept – which he mentioned twice – with the “politics of anger”, represented by what it became rapidly clear today he regards as the main enemy in this election. Once, David Cameron could hardly bring himself to mention Ukip, or its leader. Today, it was the only other party he really wanted to talk about.

Which was as well, since many of the questions either mentioned Ukip – just two words: Nigel Farage, began the first one – or were rather Ukip-ish in tone. And to a question on immigration he said: “What we’ve got to have in our country is the politics of the answer rather than the politics of anger.” What was needed was people who could “fix” immigration, welfare, and lowering taxes – not people who just mouthed “attractive soundbites?”       

Asked about Scotland, he insisted he did not believe it would secede because the arguments were so strong against it. But he took the trouble to defend his decision to grant a referendum.

Cameron was at his normal, highly fluent best, of course. But you couldn’t help thinking of the monstrous spectre haunting him as he moved round the country – 2014 as the year of Farage and Salmond.

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress and 100 others on 'master list' after massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teacher

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay, Free CPD: Randstad Education Sou...

Supply Teachers Required

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of Pay, Excellent CPD : Randstad Educati...

NQT and Experienced Primary Teachers Urgently required

£90 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: NQT and Experienced Primary Teac...

Year 1 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay, Free CPD: Randstad Education Sou...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor