After the victory come the questions. As I suggested last week, the Tories were due a grilling about their readiness for the nitty gritty stuff of government. What’s been interesting is that the questions have been coming from the party’s own grandees; in a sense, this is no surprise – it is not in the Labour Party’s interests constantly to raise the profile of a government-in-waiting. But at the same time you might have expected a few half-hearted attacks at the very least. As it was, the task was left to Geoffrey Wheatcroft in the Guardian:
Doesn’t “Dave” Cameron play a little too obviously to the gallery, and adapt his sentiments when they don’t give satisfaction? Isn’t he surrounded, if not by crooks, then by some preening mountebanks? And hasn’t he so far failed to inspire deep and widespread trust? When the Labour MPs made their contemptible choice of a new Speaker as an act of childish spite, they showed that they were resigned to extinction and simply no longer cared what anyone thought of them. But the Tories ought to care.
That meme of the resigned Labour Party reappeared there, but the thrust of the article is much more against Cameron and his circle. Guido chortles that Wheatcroft lofty position makes him a perfect foil for Cameron without taking the attack at all seriously. Which might be fair enough, except Cameron continues to jump onto bandwagons and pretending to be cool. And so the questions keep on coming.
Lord Salisbury in the Telegraph, for instance, wants the Tory leader to show some courage: “He is going to have to do really difficult things. He is going to have to stick his neck out before the election and tell the electorate what he is going to do,” he says. True, Salisbury is a High Tory and does witter a bit about how well run gentlemens’ clubs are, but, though the emphasis of his comments are off, the general line of questioning is surely unavoidable. The paper also carried that day this rather lovely cartoon, which – ahem – speaks of the pressure Cameron is now coming under to define his thinking a little more. Stephen Glover (for it is he) is only one of many in the Tory press saying that fresh new faces are not enough.
To wit, Nick Robinson’s post about the centrality of Peter Mandelson to Labour’s strategy for fighting the Tories. The old master must be aware he is performing a rearguard action, but he shows little sign – unlike the rest of his party – of dipping in his energy for it. Crafting Labour as “the underdogs” for whom it is going to be “harder to convince people” that Labour are the party for the governmental job. Some remain confident a Labour victory is possible, but they are few and far between. The Labour strategy for now seems to be not to grace the concept of a Conservative government with much in the way of attention. Cameron can in the meantime field questions from his own side; come September Mandelson and Labour need to give him a tougher time than that.