John Kampfner: In our politics you're either up or down

Suddenly, Cameron's charm is toxic and Miliband has discovered his Mojo

Share

Remember when Gordon Brown walked on water? Not literally, of course, but one could be forgiven for imagining so, such was the hype and, in many cases (I include myself), wishful thinking when the son of the Manse finally ousted his rival from Downing Street. The new Prime Minister dealt with terrorist threats, swatted away the floods, "breathing new life" into an "expectant" Britain. Then, a few months later, it all went wrong as he failed to call a General Election. From that point he was known as the ditherer, the man with no mission except to throw mobile phones at advisers.

Political journalism is notoriously fickle. It is also, with some exceptions, conformist, following the narrative established at the time. That narrative is invariably binary. Someone is either up or down. The advent of the Coalition produced a new ingredient, the Liberal Democrats, previously largely ignored. The cycle of eulogising and kicking had to be divided into three. First in the stocks was Nick Clegg, in the autumn of 2010, after the tuition fees U-turn. From then it was open season and the man could do nothing right.

Attention turned to Ed Miliband. Here was a man known only for knifing his brother, a man with the nasal voice, a man doomed for opposition. It was surely only time for a leadership challenge against him. That lasted about a year.

All the while David Cameron had the Teflon factor. No matter how doggedly the economy refused to budge or how many banana skins his ministers slipped on, the PM rose above it all. The "omnishambles" that began with the botched Budget removed Cameron's protective coat. Attributes deemed by some helpful – his "heir to Blair" charm and ideological flexibility – became toxic. The extraordinarily close friendship with the Murdoch clan was a symbol for a wider malaise.

There was only way to turn – to Miliband. Suddenly the performances at Westminster are "transformed". The boffin turned adviser turned statesman has suddenly discovered his Mojo. With some commentators now contemplating electoral wipe-out for his party, Clegg has reasons to be worried. But with three years to go before the likely General Election date and with voter allegiances unaligned, his party can still carve out a message that enough electors might respect. As for Cameron, as long as he does not sink further into the Murdoch mire, he enjoys the elevated status of office to help him recover.

There are still several cycles to endure for each of the leaders, several political dog houses to enter, before the real reckoning takes place. The more sensible strategists and politicians would be advised to rise above the rhetorical fray.

John Kampfner is author of 'Blair's Wars' and 'Freedom For Sale'

Twitter: @johnkampfner / jkampfner.net

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Hang on – that’s not how it’s supposed to be written

Guy Keleny
Rafael Nadal is down and out, beaten by Dustin Brown at Wimbledon – but an era is not thereby ended  

Sad as it is, Rafael Nadal's decline does not mark the end of tennis's golden era

Tom Peck
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test