Coffee House

David Cameron should take a leaf from Andy Flower’s book

18 September 2012

4:16 PM

18 September 2012

4:16 PM

Kevin Pietersen might be lurking in India while England start their test series in the country, but as of today, the batsman and part-time off-spinner knows the only starring role he’ll be playing will be in a commentary box. He was left out of the squad by head coach Andy Flower and the England and Wales Cricket Board after sending friends on the South African team allegedly derogatory text messages about his then captain, Andrew Strauss.

The South African team have refused to disclose what those messages said, but their spirit is not dissimilar to some of the insults that members of David Cameron’s squad have been broadcasting over the airwaves recently. It kicked off with Nadine Dorries describing the Chancellor and the Prime Minister as ‘two posh boys who don’t know the price of milk’, and was followed more recently with Tim Yeo telling the Prime Minister to show whether he was a ‘man or a mouse’, and then Brian Binley blogging that Cameron was a ‘chambermaid’ to the Lib Dems.

These MPs who decide to insult Cameron publicly are not just speaking for themselves: for every backbencher who goes public with a new creative insult for the PM, there’s two or three more who will immediately message journalists pointing out that they privately agree with the sentiment, not to mention the Lib Dems who hoot with glee at yet another wonderful image for conference speeches. The MPs concerned feel greater loyalty to their party than their leader. But as much as hacks appreciate the opportunity to commission illustrators with new and ever-more-alarming images of David Cameron as a rodent or domestic servant, it’s unwise for the leadership to let it continue.


KP’s ongoing absence from the squad was a consequence of his betrayal of his leader. In a normal commercial organisation, an employee who called their boss a ‘chambermaid’, or accused them of being ‘arrogant’ and out of touch would find themselves in a meeting with the HR department pretty sharpish. But what has been strange in each instance is that the MPs appear to get away with it. There is little comeback other than banter at PMQs, and so more backbenchers feel empowered to go public with their insults too.

Some loyal MPs argue that MPs like Binley and Dorries should have had the whip removed for their comments. Another suggested to me that Dorries should have been made a whip in 2010 to keep her on side and make use of her fiery spirit (I’m not sure that Dorries would be quite such a fan of this idea, somehow).

But there are new whips in place now, and the chief thrasher Andrew Mitchell will be setting up his strategy for bringing the party back into shape. He needs to end the culture of open dissent as part of his efforts to quell the rebellions in the party.

Part of the problem is that many backbenchers don’t feel all that loved by the leadership, and felt underappreciated by the whips, too. Loyal supporters and rebels alike moan that if only the whips took them out for coffee once in a while, told them that they were rooting for them when a newspaper published an unpleasant story about one of them, then many would not feel quite so inclined to rebel in the first place. MPs are not complicated beasts like KP: mostly they want to feel that their lobby drudgery is appreciated and to hear a reassuring voice on the phone when there’s a vote they feel uncomfortable about.

Even though it will make life less exciting for those on the outside, both Mitchell and Cameron could do a lot worse than to take a leaf out of Andy Flower’s book and make it clear that from now on, if MPs want to criticise the way their party is being led, they should do so behind closed doors, not into a microphone.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • Alan Eastwood

    Flower is a far better manager than Cameron. He certainly can and does make decisions- not always to my liking but he makes decisions. Cameron waffles. The soner he goes the better. This article is just another one telling us that it would be wrong to change leaders. Shows that Cameron is frit.

    • IsabelHardman

      Flower is much better, you’re right, because he takes no nonsense, while Cameron has allowed bad behaviour to come out into the open and seems unconcerned about stamping it out. The thing is, while a fair few MPs agree with you that the ‘sooner he goes the better’, if Cameron wants to stop that idea taking hold in the party by making it deeply unattractive for MPs to go on the record with their dissent. Of course, it makes life more interesting if he doesn’t, but that’s not really the point!

      • Alan Eastwood

        Ms Hardman, Cameron is a front man for Osborne. You know full well that Osborne wrote the reshuffle. Cameron then discussed the reshuffle with May, Hague and Cleggy. Now that smacks of leadership does it not.
        Cameron got the job because he made a better speech than David Davies. We are reaping the rewards for that. Unable to beat Brown, Unable to contain a minority party with a joke as their leader. Totally unable to keep promises and is afraid of what Merkel would say if he was to call an IN/OUT referendum. Which he wont, of course.
        And this is the man who should not be removed?

        • MikeBrighton

          It was said after the crash of ’08 and prior to the election that Cameron needed to be a transformative and radical leader to drive fundamental economic reform and recovery into the country.

          In reality he has significantly raised taxes and cut spending by a piffling amount. Very far from transformative and radical.

          Looking at the other leaders on offer, Clegg (or Vince post LibDem internal coup) with their squeeze the mansions policy and Milliband Jnr with his spend spend spend ’til you drop policy we are utterly doomed.

  • Will883

    The analogy fails because Cameron is not really their boss, the local electorate is. It would be very difficult to drop Pietersen if he had been voted into the England squad by cricket fans.

  • Mike Brighton

    It would help if Cameron was actually a Conservative rather than a European social democrat or Liberal pretending to be a Conservative. Perhaps then Conservatives would feel he was in the tent rather than outside ready to be … on

    • HooksLaw

      More inanimate rubbish from the usual crowd. Cameron is a typical conservative there is nothing particularly different about him compared with virtually all leading conservatives since the war. Those that are different are totally unelectable.

      Endless streams of rubbish from semi sentient beings like Dorries who are more happy to see a labour govt just so long as it feeds their ego. It would be nice – indeed I would be delighted – if we could find a right winger with a brain, even half a brain, but being right wing in the conservative party coincides with having a lobotomy.

      And otherwise, apart from manufacturing an opportunity to undermine the conservative party, just what is the point of this post? In the circumstances a far more meaningful discussion could be had over the issue of should we arm the police or not.

      • MikeBrighton

        You are correct, Cameron is virtualy the same as most post-war Tory leaders such as say Heath and Major. But he’s certainly no Thatcher and not a Conservative. So yes the same as Heath and Major…

        • Eagle Owl

          I’m sure that even a straightforward reading of the history books would tell you that Mrs Thatcher was not your traditional ‘Conservative’. But there you go.