Saturday News Review

Cameron praised for Libya action

They talked glowingly of Mr Cameron’s “breathtaking courage,” and his “superb leadership.” Even those who admitted they had doubted the Prime Minister were forced to admit he had brought off a “remarkable diplomatic success”. In the eyes of some, Mr Cameron has come a long way in fewer than three weeks – from naïve novice to bold statesman. The Prime Minister took a few days to consider his options on his return from a trip to the Middle East late last month, but soon backed President Nicolas Sarkozy’s early call for a no-fly zone in Libya. He probably wished he had not as the call was waved away by serious international politicians. Mr Cameron was mocked for speaking out with no less a figure than Robert Gates, the United States defence secretary, condemning the “loose talk”. But as he travels to Paris this morning for a meeting of the European Union and Arab League, the Prime Minister has a right to feel vindicated. In No 10 there is barely-concealed delight at how the cards fell his way in spectacular fashion. – the Telegraph

If it wasn’t David Cameron‘s finest hour, it will be a miracle if he ever gets a finer. Since when did any prime minister stand up in the house and find himself sloshed with praise from every side? Even the sceptics were turned into true believers, for the moment. Tories who have been grumbling about the government’s failures were lined up to salute. The declaration of military action is by now a rite of passage for prime ministers. The prime minister must look grim, yet determined on victory. Next to him on the bench must be his closest allies – in this case Nick Clegg and William Hague – who must appear sorrowful, fearful, but equally determined. (Clegg looked particularly distraught, as if his dog had just died in an accident that also wrecked his car.) There has to be a collection of resonant phrases, Churchillian in tone. Margaret Thatcher, defending the right of the Falkland islanders to live under the crown: “That will be our hope and endeavour, and, I believe, the resolve of every member of this house.” Tony Blair sending the troops into Iraq: “Never let it be said that Britain faltered.” – the Guardian

Conservative ministers failing to deliver

Remarkable anecdote in James Forsyth’sSpectator column this week: One Secretary of State is so fed up with his department’s refusal to answer his questions that he has asked a friend of his, an MP, to put in a Freedom of Information request. The article provides an interesting assessment, suggesting that a mood close to panic is gripping the Conservative wing of the Coalition because of the difficulty of delivery. According to Forsyth, this has dangerously raised expectations of George Osborne’s ability to regain the initiative with the Budget. – John Rentoul, the Independent

Nick Clegg is Osborne’s human shield

Nick Clegg has soaked up the hatred that Osborne had expected to face: “He had predicted before the election he would be Britain’s most unpopular man within six months, but Osborne has cannily managed to avoid that fate… When asked why his prophecy about becoming Britain’s public enemy number one has not yet materialised, Osborne jokes with colleagues: “I hadn’t reckoned on Nick Clegg.” While Clegg was burned in effigy in Whitehall at the student protests last year, Osborne has yet to become a public target for eggs or worse.” – Conservative Home

The power of the civil service

This month, PR Week magazine learnt of a remarkable letter from Sir Gus to David Cameron, protesting that a Tory spin doctor working for the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles had launched a personal attack on a public servant, Jenny Watson, who now heads the Electoral Commission. That attack, Sir Gus wrote, was “unacceptable” and “will not be tolerated”. When David Cameron made a speech in Cardiff suggesting some civil servants were “enemies of enterprise”, the Financial Times reported that at the next meeting of senior civil servants, Sir Gus demanded an explanation from the senior civil servant in No 10, Jeremy Heywood. The Prime Minister is taking a foolish risk if he thinks he can do without the goodwill of the man who, because his initials are GO’D – and for other reasons – is known around Whitehall as GOD. It was O’Donnell whose steady hand made the transition to the first coalition government since 1945 so apparently simple and painless. And as the government presides over a fairly brutal regime of cutbacks, while potentially getting embroiled in a civil war in Libya, it will be O’Donnell who ensures that civil servants stick to the task of carrying out the will of the elected government regardless of their private opinions. – the Independent

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