Friday, August 15, 2008

Cameron shoots Brown's last fox

There must be seething Ministers and the sound of smashed Nokia's across Downing Street tonight with the news that Tory Leader David Cameron will be visiting war-torn Georgia. Mean a lot to the average voter? Perhaps not, but it will mean a lot in Brown's Bunker ...

The massive advantage that the ruling party has is, well, being in power. A Prime Minister should strut his stuff on the international stage wherever and whenever possible and not, for example, hide in the dark to sign important international treaties. A Prime Minister should judge the national mood and do just enough of this to look statemanlike without ignoring the "home front". Actually, I mean a good Prime Minister should do that. It is something that the Leader of the Opposition just can't do. He can do photo calls outside of Tesco, he can deliver a speech to the CBI and he can appear on the Today programme. Hence whenever a Leader of the Opposition gets a sniff of international back slapping he takes it and whafts it around all over the place (the Cameron and Obama stuff was plastered all over the party branding for ages). But if a Leader of the Opposition is snubbed (Michael Howard was famously not allowed in the White House) then you know you are in trouble. The World Stage is the only place Brown can go where he knows Cameron can't follow ... not so much the last, as the best, fox he has.

The Cameron trip is a brilliant move because it kills that fox dead, it raises the Cameron profile both home and abroad as inevitably our next Prime Minister and makes Cameron look af if he was born for this stuff. The pictures of Cameron abroad (for example, with troops etc) always look refreshed and civilised - Brown always looks uptight.

But this is more than just Cameron's usual PR savy stuff; he's been allowed to get away with it and that's what'll be the biggets regret at No.10. Cameron has been clear and direct on Georgia - the Prime Minister and his Foreign Secretary (who are, no doubt, in constant contact !!!) have dithered and been slow in their response. Apart from being morally right, it is also politically right to be fast out of the traps on this issue. Would Blair or Thatcher have held back - would even John Major have done so? No, but this goverment looked like the rabbit in the headlights on Georgia. So a power vacuum is created and Cameron has filled it now. Whatever Labour do - even if, say, Milliband goes go out there - they'll be walking in Cameron's footsteps.

This is great for the Tory Leader and another disaster for the government team. And when they look at it all, and are honest with themselves, they'll know they are to blame.

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