Mr. Cameron must think it is all terribly unfair that some of the worst floods in living memory should come and dominate our media, in high summer at the fag end of the present parliamentary session, just when it ought to be safe, by rights, to nip off either for a well-earned holiday or, better, for a super photo opportunity. Unfortunately Mr. Cameron has found himself overtaken by what another Old Etonian referred to as “Events, dear boy, events”.

 

One of the ways in which voters have of judging those whom they would put into Number Ten or indeed into any high office is how they react when faced with the sudden ‘events’ like the present emergency.

 

I am afraid that Mr. Cameron has made the wrong choice by continuing with his trip to Rwanda.

 

Firstly it is not, when he is Leader of HM Opposition and aspires therefore to the office of Prime Minister, adequate for him to say he was at his flood-stricken constituency over the weekend. This is a national emergency and it falls to him to express not just the sympathetic reaction of the Conservative party to that emergency but to ask, on its behalf and on behalf of us all, the probing questions about flood defences and the budget allocated thereto, the policy of building on flood plains, how the emergency is being handled by the Civil Power and the response of ministers to the crisis. After all Macavity has not shunned the limelight but has been out visiting the affected areas and has been making announcements about funding and so on. Mr. Cameron, on the other hand, chose not to cancel his photo opportunity trip to Rwanda and instead went off to tell us that he had indeed been in Witney at the weekend but, as this was this was the 21st. Century he wanted to come to tell Africa that ‘we are all in this together’.

 

Many observers may have thought that the tone of his response to enquiries as to whether it might not have been better to stay at home was the wrong one: it was, I am afraid, petulant and arrogant. I believe he ought to have junked his trip and have got himself down to the open goalmouth (of which I have written before and of which this is a prime example) that is yawning chasm-like on the playing fields of home to do some good, and dare one say it, old-fashioned ‘opposing’. Not doing so has, inevitably and entirely predictably, allowed for headlines such as this in The Daily Mail: “Flood Stricken constituents’ fury at Cameron’s African visit”.

 

Secondly, in case he had not noticed, there is a rumble of discontent in the Party at how things have been going in recent months (which, let us face it, is not well). Surely this was also a good reason not to be seen to be gadding about on a vanity project just now (one is reminded of Margaret Thatcher nipping off to Paris in the midst of her leadership demise) but to have your nose well down to the domestic grindstone, however boring, so that the crew has the sense of a Captain at the helm, steadying the ship in a storm. Even with modern technology, you cannot give that impression from the middle of the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

 

I believe that his decision to go off on his trip was a poor error of judgement. He has gone, I suspect, to try and demonstrate that he does not feel under pressure at home and is confident enough to go abroad even with rumblings of discontent going on at home. He could, however, have easily cancelled his trip on with the pretext of the floods crisis which would have enabled him to take on Labour directly and show some, for the want of a better phrase, good old-fashioned leadership. In the meantime he could quietly attend to internal party matters without being accused of panicking.

 

It comes down, I am afraid, to the question: does Mr. Cameron have good or bad judgement (and is the therefore someone we trust to take on the job of running the country)? At the time of the Grammar Schools fiasco I wrote that his response to that issue showed bad judgement (he disappeared then as well, to Crete as I recall). I am very concerned that he does not appear to have learnt from that affair and is either being badly advised or is not listening to advice.

 

I am not sure what was going on around regional television last night, but national coverage of the floods seemed to be very light on Tory presence.

 

Ben Brogan produced a list of senior Tories who are moonlighting in other substantial jobs (http://tinyurl.com/2znjsx) under the headline: “Can Dave win with so many part-timers in his team?”. The impression which one could be forgiven for having is that some are too busy to be about the business of Opposition, indeed are so lacking in confidence that we will win the next election that they are keeping their nests well-feathered instead with substantial directorships all round. Perhaps the Tory absence from the floods playing field may be explained, in part, because those who ought to be out there opposing are actually reading their briefs for the next board meeting.

Some may complain that such criticism as this is unwarranted or ought to be swept under the carpet. I beg to differ. I earnestly want the Party to win next time out but is it not time for a grip to be taken and for the senior echelon of the party to be showing some concerted efforts to oppose this awful government?

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