Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Cameron answered a simple question - we all need to grow up

Q: What have Bill Gates and David Cameron got in common?

A: They both pre-announced their departure from a key role years before they intended to actually stand down.

And yet the reaction to these two announcements could not really have been more different. The response to Gates' statement in June 2006 that he was winding down his responsibilities and would eventually stand down two years later was measured and sensible. It was generally perceived as a good thing that the then CEO of Microsoft was giving a fair amount of notice to allow for succession planning to take place and ensure the eventual transition was smooth.

Contrast that with the reaction to David Cameron's recent comments that he would like a second term of office as Prime Minister but would not stand for a third term in 2020.




are just some of the more printable responses from other politicians and some commentators.

It seems the Westminster Bubble consensus is that this was a very bad move from Cameron. He has "undermined his authority". He has "fired the starting gun on his succession". He has "given up any chance of shaping the future of his party".

But why? Why is it so terrible to declare that as a Prime Minister fighting his first attempt at re-election he would not want to go on beyond 2020?

The truth is it isn't so terrible. Having watched the reaction to this, and listened on the radio earlier it seems there are plenty of members of the public who can see this for what it is. A politician answering a question with a straightforward answer.

How many times have we asked for just this? When a politician is asked a straight question we want a straight answer. But when they unexpectedly give one like this the entire political world goes into meltdown and it is portrayed as his biggest gaffe in years.

This reaction is utterly pathetic. These sort of pre-announcements happen all the time in industry. There is no reason why our politics and the Tory party cannot handle a Prime Minister announcing that he only wants to serve at most another 5 years. A similar announcement by Tony Blair in 2004 did undermine his premiership. But the main reason for that was because he had a Chancellor who felt like he had a God given right to succeed him and had spent over a decade plotting for just this sort of moment. It is a sign of the general stability of the current Conservative Party leadership that Cameron feels that he can make such an announcement and will not find himself undermined at every possible opportunity.

Cameron is still a relatively young man and has a young family. It is hardly surprising he wouldn't want to continue on beyond 10 years in office.

It would be a sign of political maturity in our culture for us to accept that leaders will not go on and on without the sort of spasmodic reaction we have seen in the last 24 hours.

Politics and the media need to grow up.

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