Thursday, April 02, 2009

David Cameron as Flashman

There was a cheap and nasty moment from David Cameron at prime minister's questions yesterday.

While calling on Gordon Brown to organise a meeting of party leaders to sort out the mess over MPs' expenses, he pretended not to have noticed whether Nick Clegg was in the House. ("Is he here?") Of course Nick Clegg was in place: it would have been extraordinary if he had not been there.

I suppose the meaning Cameron was seeking to convey was that Clegg is so insignificant as to be beneath his notice. This sort of thing may go down well in the circles that Cameron has always moved in, but it is unlikely to impress the average voter.

Interestingly, there is no trace of this remark to be found in the official record of yesterday's exchanges between Cameron and Brown. It's a reminder that Hansard often preserves what MPs would like to have said rather than of what they actually did say.

It may also be a sign that Cameron has thought better of this tactic. Discussing the odd dispute at PMQs in February over Titian's age at his death - the one a Tory researcher thought he could settle by altering the artist's Wikipedia entry - Michael White wrote:
Dave tries to keep the Flashman side of his nature under control and usually succeeds. In constantly reminding voters that Brown finds it very hard to say sorry he's making a damaging point.

In accusing Brown of "never getting his facts right" over Titian while not getting them indisputably right himself, Cameron scored an own goal. Voters notice these things.
I think Mr Cameron needs to try a little harder.


Blognor Regis said...

"Voters notice these things."

Really? Or is it the preserve of political obsessives? Genuinely wondering.

Frank Little said...

Is the Radio 5 editor in league with Cameron? Live coverage of PMQs cut away yesterday just before Nick Clegg asked his first question.

Jonathan Calder said...

Blognor: I think the impression that voters form of a politician's character matters a great deal.

What mattered was not the editing of Wikipedia but Cameron's braying in the Commons.

James Graham (Quaequam Blog!) said...

Can't Clegg insist that it is included in Hansard?

Jonathan Calder said...

Afraid not. MPs can polish their own entries a little, but that is all.