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What Cricket Tells Us About David Cameron

18 February 2011

3:33 PM

18 February 2011

3:33 PM

Peter Oborne has an excellent column in the Telegraph today. Much of it reprises Peter’s case that Cameron is a genuine reforming Prime Minister and that the Big Society (or whatever you want to call it) is Cameron’s way of refuting the certainties of the post-war settlement and the excesses of Thatcherism. But wittingly or not it also highlights (deliberately I’m sure) some of the weaknesses of the Prime Minister’s style. Reflecting on Cameron the cricketer, Peter* writes:

Before he became famous, I sometimes used to play cricket with David Cameron. He was an expansive middle-order batsman who possessed all the strokes necessary to assemble a decent score.

The majority of the runs scored by the future prime minister accrued on the leg side of the wicket, and herein lay a fatal flaw. This tendency to strike across the line, allied perhaps to a lack of basic concentration, too often brought about a premature return to the pavilion.

As a bowler, Cameron was not without merit. There was a longish run-up, carefully marked out, and he was able to bowl an accurate, probing delivery. I think that even the Prime Minister would acknowledge that he was, however, hampered by a lack of control of line and length. This meant that his bowling could be dominated by any competent batsman and this was only too often the case.

To sum up, David Cameron was nothing exceptional as a cricketer. What made him stand out was his instinctive understanding that the local cricket games we use to play were an essential part of society.

If it’s not too cute to say so, some of cricketing Cameron’s weaknesses are mirrored by faults in Prime Minister Cameron too. Decency is not enough. Prime Minister Cameron’s political and press operations too often show promise but, like his batting, are prone to fatal lapses of concentration, some of them probably exacerbated by over-confidence and a measure of complacency. Too often he takes his eye off the ball with, as we have seen, unfortunate consequences.

Similarly, with his bowling. Good intentions are not enough. Discipline and perseverance are needed too. As Fraser says, the reetreat over the partial sell-off of forestry plantations shows a government that can be hit off its length. Ditto nonsenses such as the school building programme and distractions such as votes for prisoners. The government leaks runs to opponents who really ought to be finding it hard to get the ball off the square, far less discovering that there are easy singles and, assisted by sloppy fielding no doubt, easy boundaries too. Here too, a tighter, more focused strategy is needed. Perhaps it would be a good idea to only try and bowl one miracle ball an over too, rather than pressing too hard, trying to take wickets with every delivery. Line and length will do, lad.

So if Cameron the cricketer was expansive, easy-going and too ambitious for his own good, perhaps something similar may be said of Cameron the Prime Minister. Radically overhauling a broken welfare system and introducing urgent reforms to (English) schools is quite enough without also thinking it a good idea to introduce a major shake-up of the NHS too. All this while restoring sense and stability to the public finances and introducing a major (though welcome) cultural change via the Big Society! One sometimes feels the ghost of George Hirst is needed to remind the Prime Minister that it’s fine to get them in singles…

Plus, the skipper must manage his squad, many of whom are far from happy with the team’s selection and far from convinced that the Vice-Captain is worth his place. For that matter, many of Cameron’s players think he’s taking the wrong approach and making a series of foolish decisions on both a tactical and strategic level. The AV referendum, many seem to think, was akin to a recklessly generous declaration that can only invite defeat and eventual ruin…

*This is neither the time nor thankfully the place, to speculate upon what Peter’s own style of captaincy reveals about Oborne the Man….

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