Leading article: Five solid years, but still much to prove

Share
Related Topics

It was five years ago today that David Cameron, standing as an outsider, was elected to lead the Conservative Party. Now, it seems in some ways as though he has held that job forever, so comfortable does he seem in the role and so smoothly has he graduated from Opposition leader to Prime Minister. Yet he still seems the fresh new leader who bounded on to the stage and captivated his party conference with a pitch-perfect candidate's speech, delivered extempore. He remains youthful, engaging, and yes, to an almost infuriating degree, someone who was born to rule.

As a politician, Mr Cameron has also been exceptionally fortunate. Whereas everything Gordon Brown touched seemed to turn to dust once he had finally reached No 10 – including the economy, which had been his pride and joy – everything Mr Cameron touched, except England's World Cup bid, turned to gold. Even the personal tragedies – and we say this with no cynical intent – devolved to his political advantage.

Caring for a severely handicapped son gave him a human dimension and made him reliant on the NHS and other public services in a way that someone of his wealthy background might not otherwise have been. Ivan's sudden death accentuated his human qualities – and coincidentally removed a plank from the Liberal Democrats' planned election platform; they had intended to attack Mr Cameron for being remote from ordinary voters' concerns. The birth of his daughter, during the family holiday in Cornwall, not only produced stunning pictures, but helped quell pre-conference criticism of the coalition deal from inside his party.

Mr Cameron might be a fortunate politician, but he has also helped make that good fortune, with a shrewdly calculated embrace of risk. He decided to stand for party leader, and campaign as a moderniser, although David Davis was seen as the strong front-runner. He rewrote the agenda for the 2008 party conference at a moment's notice to take account of the financial crisis. His most conspicuous gamble, however, was his effort to turn the party's disappointing election result into a victory, by making his "big, open and comprehensive offer" to the Liberal Democrats, and making it boldly and in public.

So far, in his terms, that gamble has paid off. The country has its first coalition government since the war, and by and large the public has taken to the new politics, even if some of the party faithful on either side have not. In party political terms, the alliance with the Liberal Democrats has given Mr Cameron an alibi to be more liberal and less in hock to the party's right wing than he might otherwise have been. To date, largely because of the university fees issue, it is Nick Clegg, far more than Mr Cameron, who is feeling the heat.

In all, a positive report card for Mr Cameron, whose generally sunny disposition has also been an asset in these straitened times. The very ease with which he has taken to being Prime Minister, however, has the potential, if he is not careful, to turn into a liability. The Bullingdon air of being born to rule is never far below the surface. Fluency can tip over into glibness. And vultures are gathering around a host of policies, not just tuition fees, but timidity towards the banks and the malign effects of lower benefits, structural changes to the NHS and public sector cuts, whose wisdom is less evident to the many who will be affected than it is to the mostly privileged individuals on the front bench.

So far, from the Bloody Sunday inquiry to the birth of his daughter, Mr Cameron has shown perfect pitch. Public opprobrium has tended to slide off on to ministers, leaving him to glide serenely on. Suspicions that he is fundamentally a PR man and a lightweight persist. There are few certainties in government, but one is that good times rarely last.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker