Coffee House

Call Me Dave still has much to learn from The Master

25 July 2014

25 July 2014

David Cameron and Tony Blair faced identical tasks earlier this week. Both wished to force a reluctant group of back-sliders to adopt a more robust and pragmatic position.

Cameron wanted Europe to toughen up against Putin. Blair wanted Labour to toughen up against Cameron.

Blair’s opportunity was the 20th anniversary of his enthronement as Labour’s leader. Oddly enough the chief beneficiary of that leadership – the Labour party itself – mysteriously forgot to give its messianic champion a chance to reflect on his methods. Instead, he offered his blueprint for further Labour victories to the think-tank, Progress.

Blair likes to write in the early morning, in long-hand, seated at a window. This speech, clearly the product of many such sessions, was full of optimism, cajolery, hard-headed common sense and double-edged warnings. And it kicked off with an inflammatory sound-bite aimed at the radical left.

Old ideas dressed in new clothes are still old ideas and are visibly so when undressed by reality.’

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That struck home. The first respondent to the Guardian’s online coverage said, ‘why cant [sic] he just fuck off?’ This was followed by a thousand similar outbursts. ‘Lying hound’, ‘the best PM the Tories ever had’, ‘bring back Blair in chains’, and so on.

Blair restricted himself to generalities and stressed the primacy of ‘individual empowerment’ over ‘collective control’. But he was specific about education. He scolded Labour’s self-harmers for complaining that the Tories’ free school programme is an extension of the academy system pioneered by Lord Adonis and himself. ‘That should be a matter for rejoicing not anguish.’ He urged his party to take on vested interests that oppose reform, ‘otherwise we are the conservatives.’

Conservatives. The insult Blair most loves to use against the unions. Not least because it’s the insult they most loved to use against him. He even likened Ed’s leftish coalition to the clapped out Tories that he faced during his decade as PM. ‘Shriekers at the gates’, he called them rather than a movement with ‘the character of a governing party.’

As for Labour moving towards the centre-right, he said: ‘Relax. It happens,’ with an audible smirk. In full sun-lounger mode, he offered this political dichotomy.

In the end, parties can please themselves or please the people.’

The casual language disguises the deep sincerity of this utterance. Few can have failed to hear an echo of the dire warning he issued to Old Labour in the mid-1990s. ‘Parties that do not change, die.’

Where Blair was heart-felt, Cameron was focus-grouped. The words he addressed to the nation, and to Europe, about the MH370 disaster were saturated with cliches. He didn’t quite say he was ‘rolling up his sleeves’ to ‘do the right thing’ for the ‘hard-working families’ who’d lost their lives ‘because we’re all in this together.’ But his slogan-writers used the triplicate form so often that the speech dissolved into series of impotent drum-rolls.

‘Alongside our sympathy there is also anger. Anger that this could happen. Anger that a conflict that could have been stopped by Moscow has been fomented by Moscow. Anger that some in the west …’ etc.

He said he wanted to ‘turn a moment of outrage into a moment of action.’ He might have done better to turn it moment of cordial and personal rhetoric rather than this production-line invective. Mind you, he didn’t quite take the wooden spoon which goes to the author of this response.

What’s been done so far has been proved to be inadequate.’ (Ed Miliband)

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Show comments
  • Jack

    I wish Blair would **** off.

  • Damaris Tighe

    When Cameron & other politicos stop speaking to me as if I’m a child, ghastly cliches to hand, then I might start listening to them again.

  • HookesLaw

    Its bad enough internet floods us with canards but when journalist repeat them it gets too much. Blair never said ‘call me Tony’ and Cameron never said ‘call me Dave’.
    The only PM (according to a well sourced report in the Times at the time) who said ‘call me’ by their first name was Gordon Brown, who probably believing all the spurious reports said it was OK to ‘call me Gordon’.

    One wonders just what the inept Mr Evans is trying to say other pass off smears and bile as insightful journalism. Is it wrong to cultivate a relaxed image?

    As for the rest – when I read such guff as ‘Where Blair was heart-felt, Cameron was focus-grouped’ I know there is not point to the rest. Mr Evans is a complete ignorant bigot. And pretentious with it. We all know how focussed grouped Blair was and indeed focus groups are every in politics. Newsnight was busy peddling them before the last election.

    • southerner

      Well as you love both Blair and Camerloon and spend all day polishing their photos (positioned either side of Heath on the mantelpiece in your bedsit) I fail to see what you are getting worked up about.

      • HookesLaw

        I don’t love Blair and my politics are a bit to the right of Cameron’s. Heath made a tragic misconceived U turn which both Thatcher and Cameon/Osborne resisted.
        But you’re not interested in that. You are not intereted in truth or logic. You are only interested in feeding your own thick extreme prejudices. You njust stick to polishing your jackboots because thats what nasty thick extreme right wingers end up wearing.

        • southerner

          A “bit to the right of Cameron” is one of the most hilarious things you have posted – and you have written some pearlers in your time. Do tell – what policies of Cameron’s do you think are a bit too left wing for you then?
          As for the rest of the semi-literate mis-spelt lunacy, I have run it through all 51 languages on Google Translate and I am still none the wiser.

  • Terence Hale

    They have something in common, Mr. Blair follow a manure carriage and thinks it’s a wedding, and Mr. Cameron is not always wrong but wrong at the right moment.

  • Iain Hill

    Blair stands only for inequality, elitism and fingers in the till!

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …so, like the Cameroon poshboys, then?

  • swatnan

    Was watching the ‘Our Streets’ TV Programme yesterday about the posh Moray Estate in Edinburgh; and then Fettes School came up; I knew that Tone had gone to Fettes, but a shot of the School Hall suddenly brought it home to me that it was a very very posh place, Public School on par with Eton. So, we’ve had a Posh Boy Labour PM! Tony suddenly sunk in my estimation. And I disagreed with him at the Progress Meeting last week.
    Wilson was a clever Grammar School boy; Atlle was a minor Public School boy
    Half the ShadCab have been to Posh Schools, inc Balls. When are we going to geta Labour PM whose been to a Comp?
    Ramsey MacDonald was the only Labour Leader that came from a poor crofteer background.

    • routeman680 .

      Probably ex-comp students are under-represented on the front benches because the average comp pupil of whatever ability level gets a lower standard of education and lower confidence than the public-school and grammar-school types. Hence the need for grammar schools and Gove (both sadly missed already).

  • Curnonsky

    MH17, shurely?

  • Smithersjones2013

    Blair restricted himself to generalities and stressed the primacy of ‘individual empowerment’ over ‘collective control’.

    From one of the most sanctimonious lying hypocritical corrupt centralists that this country has ever had the misfortune to suffer. Isn’t there a war crime he can be charged with so he can no longer foul the air good British people breath?

  • Denis_Cooper

    “Blair restricted himself to generalities and stressed the primacy of ‘individual empowerment’ over ‘collective control’.”

    This is the ****er who supported the EU Constitution.

  • @PhilKean1

    I cringed with embarrassment and shame –

    – when, asked to comment about the decision to send the black boxes to Farnborough for analysis, Cameron said – ” the experts at Farnborough are some of the best in the world “ . Never been of the “speak quietly and carry a big stick” school of thought.

    It is a sad fact that the British political establishment now feel the need to talk-up every minor aspect of Britain’s “expertise” and “capabilities” in order to over-compensate for the fact that they have no desire to invest in the types of substantive programs and procurements which provide nations like America and China with national security and technological advancement.

    • MirthaTidville

      How right you are..Dave very successfully dismantled our big stick…The Navy is now so short of marine engineers it can barely put to sea

      • Holly

        We do not need a big Navy.
        Everyone, including the politicians KNOW the real threat is on British soil……Well they will be when they get back from Syria, or wherever it is they are fighting god knows who, for god knows why.

        • Mynydd

          So why did Mr Cameron/Hague give them aid and material?.

          • HookesLaw

            They did not. There are many groups of fighters – its because the west did not support them that ISIS gained prominence. For this you can thank Labour and an inept gang of thick right wing backbench tories.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              So now you socialist nutter Camerloons are reduced to lying about your lickspittle support for islamofascist murderers in Libya, Syria and now Iraq, lad?

              How typical of you. No wonder your hero the H2B worships Bliar.

              • HookesLaw

                Lying – you are the lick-spittle liar. Lost in your own screaming mad prejudices.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  What’s it like to side with islamofascist murderers, lad? I’ve been curious about that, and just what it feels like for you Camerloons to support the headchoppers.

                  What’s that like, laddie?

                  Do you prefer that the Christians be slaughtered with a bullet to the head, the modern way?

                  Or do you prefer the old fashioned methods, taking their Christian heads off with a blade, so their blood gurgles into their windpipe as they die?

                  Or do you just leave that all up to your islamofascist allies, to slaughter the Christians as they see fit, and as you Camerloons are paying them to do?

            • Mynydd

              What controls did Mr Cameron/Hague put in place to insure the aid and materials didn’t go to groups like ISIS? It would seem none. By the way Labour have not been in a position to support any group in Syria, however I agree with ‘an inept gang of thick right wing backbench tories’

              • Holly

                You remind me of Verity.

              • HookesLaw

                It would seem? How do you know?
                Labour voted in a cheap opportunist way to defeat the govt for no other reason but to cause embarrassment. The realities of the world counted for nothing.

          • Holly


      • HookesLaw

        We have a massive defence budget. In 2009 it was £41 billion. In 2015 it is set to be £46 billion. The provision of marine engineers is the responsibility of professionals not politicians. The navy is still putting to sea. By no stretch of even the most fevered and loony imagination can anyone say our defences are being dismantled.
        In that time ‘General Govt ‘ spending fell from £16 billion in 2009 to a proposed £14 billion in 2015.

    • Holly

      Maybe I’m just too thick, but….
      Why did the bod asking the question, ask that question in the first place, and what would you/he have expected/wanted the answer to be?
      ‘We do not trust/have faith in any other country to do it’, seems a bit ‘BIG stick’ ish.
      Britain has been dragged down to a level some of us have never seen before, so as far as I’m concerned, bigging-up every refreshingly ‘re-built’ bit of Britain is just what our young people need to be hearing.
      (Most)British people are brilliant.

      • Mynydd

        It could well be that Mr Crosby told the ‘bod’ what question to ask then told Mr Cameron what answer to give. It happens all the time at PMQs, via a Wednesday morning Email to the backbenches.

        • HookesLaw

          Or then again maybe not.

        • Holly

          It could well be, that the bod asking the question, told Crosby to tell Cameron what he was going to ask, and then went on to tell told Crosby to tell Cameron how to answer it….
          Even more unlikely than your suggestion, but both of us could be right/wrong.
          It could be Milibands ‘image’ guru, talking to Crosby, who’s talking to Cameron eh?
          Who cares?

          Someone asked Cameron a question, Cameron answered it, and ‘bigged up’ Britain and her people in his reply. Why that is now thought of as PR, spin or Cameron being whatever, is beyond me.
          We have plenty bods in Labour who constantly talk Britain down, and think Brits are incapable of making it without Labour diktats.
          Labour do this, because they are no longer in a position to do it in practice any more.
          Long may that continue.

          • HookesLaw

            Do you ot think sometimes you are wasting your breath on these people?

      • Jack

        You’ve met them all?

      • @PhilKean1


        I don’t think I could provide a better explanation than the one I gave in my original comment.

        It is just that you and I think totally differently. Which is why we don’t understand each other and – I am guessing – we have different concerns.

    • HookesLaw

      what rubbish you speak

  • Alexsandr

    why did cameron have to say anything about the shot down airliner? why do we expect politicians to make some fatuous comment on every event. I would have more respect if they just shut up.

    • @PhilKean1

      I cringed with embarrassment and shame –

      – when, asked to comment about the decision to send the black boxes to Farnborough for analysis, Cameron said – ” the experts at Farnborough are some of the best in the world “. Never been of the “speak quietly and carry a big stick” school of thought.

      It is a sad fact that the British political establishment now feel the need to talk-up every minor aspect of Britain’s “expertise” and “capabilities” in order to over-compensate for the fact that they have no desire to invest in the types of substantive programs and procurements which provide nations like America and China with national security and technological advancement.

      • telemachus

        So why are we not talking about Charlie Brooks impending candidacy for UKIP

        • Kennie

          because he isn’t, so you have failed there, troll, to wind up anybody.

          • telemachus

            Charlie Brooks, who was recently cleared of phone hacking charges alongside his wife Rebekah, is reportedly planning on standing for Ukip in the next general election.

            The racehorse trainer is allegedly in talks with the anti-EU party and is understood to have discussed the possibility with leader Nigel Farage.

            An excited Ukip “insider” told the Daily Mail that “Farage has confirmed that Brooks would be a candidate for a constituency in 2015,” which would be seen as a blow to the Conservatives.

        • Holly

          Because it is a non story.
          He can stand for whatever political party he likes.
          Your’e just peeved because he didn’t ‘fall out’ with Cameron enough to join Labour.
          IF he stood here, I’d vote for him in a heartbeat.
          Anything to get rid of the dead hand of Sheerman.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Because he is a “blabbering uber-pundit with an opinion about everything”.

    • telemachus

      It is the panache with which it is said
      Blair had it
      Cameron does not

      • Inverted Meniscus

        Tagged trolling tripe.

      • you_kid

        Shocking (for some) but true.
        Even the bottled genie will agree (as we all know).

      • Alexsandr

        no. I nearly vomited when I heard his spout to camera after Dianas death. Another one who could not keep a dignified silence.

        • telemachus

          For millions of ladies around the globe he became the peoples prince
          Britain walked tall with him at the helm
          Unlike now

          • cambridgeelephant

            “Britain crawled tall.”

            There you are fixed it for you. If it’s any consolation under Cameron, it still does.

          • Alexsandr

            no. he looked like a second had car salesman. and had the sincerity and honesty of one.

            • telemachus

              I think you refer to Clegg

          • Inverted Meniscus

            More tagged trolling tripe.

          • james allen

            You mean he walked slavishly behind the most stupid American President of the last century into a disastrous conflict in the Middle East….

            Yeh, Blair… what a genius.

            • telemachus

              Blair was undoubtedly the dominant personality
              Look back at the Camp David or later Gleneagles photos and see who looked in charge

              • james allen

                You mean he managed to make Bush look inferior?…. that’s not really much to boast about is it. I’m sure your political nous isn’t so twisted as to think that Blair led the USA into a war in Iraq, not the other way around.

          • Kennie

            You can fool all of the people some of the time,
            you can fool some of the people all of the time,
            but, he can fool telemachus any old time.

    • Mynydd

      Mr Cameron make fatuous comments on every thing under the sun, because for a PR man, the most important thing is, 20 seconds on that days news broadcast, and tomorrows headline.

    • HookesLaw

      It was a major international incident that’s why. Have you got GCSEs in

  • james allen

    You know you’ve got a bunch of lightweights running the country when they make Tony Blair sound sincere.

    • HookesLaw

      I think the lightweights are running the Spectator.

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