Westminster’s Tony Montana needs to learn how to chillax

by Kevin Meagher

Those prime ministers whom the gods wish to destroy they first ridicule.

The current incumbent, who once promised to “let sunshine win the day” has a face like thunder these days.

That’s because David Cameron’s once-luxuriant Teflon coating has now rubbed off leaving him mired in a series of presentational sticky patches. He’s getting to know what ridicule is all about.

From his cosy relationship with the Murdoch empire through to leaving his daughter at the pub, the gaffes mount; while his performances at prime minister’s questions are becoming an erratic series of desperate lunges and hacking motions. The rapier has become a bludgeon.

His latest scrape, berating Tory backbencher Jesse Norman who led Tuesday’s House of Lords rebellion against the government, is now Westminster folklore.

What gives the story added comedy value is the tale of four government whips banishing Norman from the parliamentary precinct. Was it for his own good? Did they think Dave would pop a cap in him during a corridor “walk by” if he hung around?

Red-faced, finger-jabbing, insult-waving petulance is not behaviour that adds to the prime ministerial lustre.

As he put it himself when goading his predecessor-but-one, “he was the future once”. It is a telling remark. Slowly, but assuredly, David Cameron is turning into yesterday’s man.

When he keeps his cool and avoids being too partisan, David Cameron plays the part well. He is great at acting like a prime minister when things are going well. A leader for sunny days.

The problem he has is that things aren’t going well. The economy is tanking. His coalition is fraying at the edges while his own backbenchers are restive – with many openly questioning his general direction. The critique is personal; undermining his authority by seeming to call into question his temperament.

This is because Cameron makes the fundamental mistake of confusing flashes of anger with strength. So berating a backbencher or body-swerving Sarkozy at an EU summit or making a silly dig about Dennis Skinner’s age becomes his modus operandi.

In fact David Cameron is fast becoming Westminster’s Tony Montana – Al Pacino’s protagonist in the film Scarface – reckless and aggressive and focused purely on the short-term.

Although a clever and able man who is clearly used to living on his wits, the prime minister is no strategist and he clearly has little patience. As Tory grandee Sir Peter Tapsell wisely observed, he is adept getting out of trouble – but unrivalled at getting in it in the first place.

But maintaining a coalition requires strategic thinking, not endless brinkmanship. Cameron’s problem is that upon his government’s fragile political foundations lies a truly radical policy agenda. However the two don’t mix. Not when he’s ten points behind in the polls. Not when every big policy needs endless fixing and managing to get his own side’s buy-in, let alone deliver his coalition partners.

I wrote back in February that Cameron has reached his Stalingrad – biting off more than he can chew – creating enemies with alacrity – and will be forced into retreat as a result.

Some apparatchik should do him a favour and pin Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous prayer about developing “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” on Cameron’s bathroom mirror.

Because like Tony Montana, the prime minister is constantly up for a fight. But he needs to learn that his impetuousness in the root of his problems. His lack of forethought a hindrance. His inability to build coalitions behind big policy moves his potential undoing.

He needs to act like a prime minister when things are going against him, not just when they’re going his way. Perhaps, rather than worrying about the criticism that he enjoys chillaxing, he should do a bit more of it?

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

Tags: , , ,

3 Responses to “Westminster’s Tony Montana needs to learn how to chillax”

  1. Anon E Mouse says:

    If this list is all that the finest activists have to complain about then the Labour Party is truly doomed.

    Despite his perceived incompetence John Major still won an election something the totally incompetent Gordon Brown never managed.

    Mind you the Labour Party never elected him either (very much the way the PLP and activists never elected Ed Miliband) which for them was a good thing.

    Despite the war in Iraq Tony Blair still got re-elected just as Cameron will.

    All that will happen is the coalition will split before the next election and Cameron will blame it all on the Lib-Dems offer a referendum on Europe and storm in.

    This country quite rightly ejected the last lot with Labour’s second worst ever election defeat and this article would make you feel you were in a time machine.

    It’s clear that the author here isn’t the brightest – one only has to read his postings elsewhere to realise that but to actually believe this negative stuff help Labour in anyway shows a complete lack of understanding of the British people.

    Silly silly article (although better than his “parallel universe” nonsense last time)….

  2. BenM says:

    “Because like Tony Montana, the prime minister is constantly up for a fight. But he needs to learn that his impetuousness in the root of his problems.”

    Impetuousness is a conservative trait.

    The unwillingness to back down and to admit you’re wrong all characterise those with conservative outlooks on life.

    Hence the cartoon machismo of the Bush presidency and many US conservatives. Hence the lurch to the same failed neo-liberal economic prescriptions and embrace of foolish austerity that got the country – nay, the world – into this mess.

    Society was meant to be ever advancing. But conservatism holds it back and drags it under in a wave of collective reactionary stupidity.

    This is a 30 year yolk of backward conservative political thinking that we need to shake off – Labour needs the courage to grab the nettle and face down Tory policies which benefit those with most power most of all.

    Cameron’s failure ought to be the final nail in the coffin of this rabid rightwing reaction.

  3. swatantra says:

    Just likw the rabid rednecks on the Tory side we have our own left wing Trots that would sabotage any prospect of Labour returning to power. Its always difficult to know what to do with extremes. Yes they have a view but its often very blinkered and very self centred and they never see the whole picture. Thats why Centre Left politicians from all Parties must work together to ensure that extremes are kept in their place.

Leave a Reply