Every once in a while, a leader does something that is so palpably false that it becomes totemic of their leadership, it makes them a laughing stock, it calls their judgement into question and leaves a mark upon their record. The classic example is a George Bush’s speech in 2003, where a banner was displayed behind the former President’s head bearing the legend “Mission Accomplished”. The mission in Iraq quite clearly was not “accomplished”. It made him look triumphalist, ridiculous and divoirced from reality.
Today David Cameron had his “Mission Accomplished” moment. He stood up in the commons at PMQs and – with a straight face – described his government as “strong and united”. A nation guffawed. This could not be more wrong, the only question mark is whether the PM is oblivious, or whether he’s a shameless liar. Either way, strong and united governments don’t behave like this, and that’s just today’s example. For Cameron to say this after the Lords Reform revolt and Clegg’s boundary change tantrum defies belief.
Then again, perhaps the PM has a different concept of strength to the rest of us. The example of strength he used today was that he has kept George Osborne as Chancellor. Truly it is a mighty politician who displays his strength by retaining a failed and unpopular man to run the economy. By contrast, he suggested that Miliband was not butch enough (yes, butch) because he has been known to make coffee for people. I confess, dear reader, that I have been known to make coffee on occasion. I had no idea that to make coffee was a sign that I am not butch, and that lacking butchness (?) was detrimental to strength or leadership. The Prime Minister has certainly taught me something there…
Far better to show strength and be “butch” by rolling over and accepting IDS’s refusal to move on from DWP or by trying and failing to sack Ken Clarke and Sayeeda Warsi – instead inventing new cabinet roles for them. That’s butch Dave, you show them how butch you are Dave. Butchy Butch Butch.
And so as Cameron Butchly rifled through his notes as he sought the answers to Miliband’s probing questions (essentially “why have you not done anything much on the economy?” over and over again), he butchly failed to answer any questions, and butchly succumed to butch name calling and butch insults.
Mission accomplished Dave.