PMQs Verdict: Cameron’s foolish hubris is catching up with him

January 30, 2013 1:49 pm

At PMQs just a few short months ago, David Cameron let slip a phrase that may come to define the failure of his leadership in the way that “Mission Accomplished” did for George W. Bush (and to a lesser extent “saved the world” did for Gordon Brown). Last year after Cameron told the Commons “the good news will keep coming”, I said that those would be words that would come back to haunt Cameron.

Last Friday – and today at PMQs – that’s exactly what has started to happen.

Cameron put in a spirited performance in defence of his position, but in the end it was all bluster, because the figures are against him. I catalogued some of the stats that make up the charge sheet against his government last Friday, and Ed Miliband used many of them today. The UK economy is still well off its pre-financial crisis peak, whilst the German and US economies are significantly larger. Our economy has grown by only 0.4% in the 9 quarters since Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review. In the same time to US economy has grown by over 4%, whilst the UK economy has shrunk in 5 of the 9 quarters since Osborne’s spending review.

After last week’s poor showing at PMQs, Ed Miliband will have wanted to put on a good show. The persistant government failure to produce growth gave him the perfect opportunity to do just that. He had both a good grasp of the numbers that prove the government’s failure – and the confidence to defend Labour’s position on the economy. Tellingly, Miliband almost went as far as arguing for “good” borrowing to fund infrastructure development and stimulate the economy (housing building anyone?) as the polar opposite to osborne’s “bad” borrowing as a result of falling tax receipts as growth splutters and dies.

Cameron put in a spirited performance at the dispatch box, but it was like watching a cricketer try to deal with a broken bat. First it was broken by Osborne’s failure to produce even basic, measly growth to get the country moving again. Then it was broken again by Cameron’s foolish hubris in predicting (with no basis) that “the good news will keep coming”. Yet the risk for Cameron now is that it may be the bad news that will keep on coming. If the current quarter fails to produce growth, Britain will end up in an unprecedented “triple-dip” recession. No amount of special pleading about the legacy left by Labour (one of growth and recovery, incidentally) will obscure the fact that the Tories have already taken us back into recession and may be about to do it again.

Today, it felt like Cameron was facing up to that difficult truth. What we saw today was almost certainly a precursor to the rows that will be had in the election campaign. By then, Cameron will need to have found sustained growth that makes people feel better off, or a better set of excuses, lest he be confined to the dustbin of history with so many of Britain’s failed Prime Ministers. And what will haunt him once he’s there, is that so many of these crises that are sinking him are of his own making. And his hubris.

  • Matthew Blott

    Very good summary.

  • Pat Martin

    Even growth may not save Cameron – once his government gets a reputation for economic mismanagement, nothing will save them (look at the 92-97 Tory government).

  • Gabrielle

    By then, Cameron will need to have found sustained growth that makes people feel better off, or a better set of excuses, lest he be confined to the dustbin of history with so many of Britain’s failed Prime Ministers. And what will haunt him once he’s there, is that so many of these crises that are sinking him are of his own making. And his hubris.

    Very true.

    As for heading for the same fate as other failed PMs, I think that is a given. The thing is, Cameron’s failure is on a much more massive scale. He failed to win against GB, whom the press had whipped up a hysterical hate campaign against. Everything he’s done as PM has been a shambolic disaster, and yet he’s too arrogant and hubristic to acknowledge that he might be getting it completely wrong – and so further sows the seeds of his own destruction. When he made his foolish prediction about the ‘good news will keep coming’ he actually believed it.

    When he worked for John Major’s government back in the 90s, apparently he used to contemptuously refer to Major as a ‘loser’ – well, Cameron’s achieved the extraordinary feat of matching and actually far exceeding the ineptitude of Major’s reign.

  • Gabrielle

    Ed did very well, especially by nailing Cameron’s lies about the debt, deficit and borrowing falling, Cameron predictably responded by lying some more.

    Incidentally, there’s a bit of a stir about Cameron appearing to tell the SNP’s Angus Robertson to ‘f*** off’ during PMQs. He didn’t say the words out loud, he mouthed them, but it looks pretty obvious what he was saying.

    He’s still fuming that the Nats didn’t cooperate with his gerrymandering scheme.

    • Alexwilliamz

      Yep he said what are you frightened of?

  • Dave Postles

    Krugman still insists that GB ‘saved the world’ – o.k., so it’s hyperbole, but without his initiative, it could have been much, much worse, according to Krugman.

  • Monkey_Bach

    Like a man sinking in quicksand the more Cameron thrashes and blusters the quicker he sinks. What a pathetic excuse for a Prime Minister and the Conservatives for a rabble. The sooner this parcel of rogues and incompetents are gone the better.


  • TomFairfax

    Whilst I share the view that governments lose elections, I think that we shouldn’t forget that the public don’t just hand them to any opposition. It’s all positive for Labour at the moment but it still requires more work to win a clear mandate.

  • Hamish Dewar

    I wish Labour would opt out of this Punch and Judy charade of PMQs.
    It is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
    But if it is a game, Ed M, having most of the aces, could play his hand better.
    He rightly accuses the PM of failing to answer the question he asked but then asks another question, which the PM also dodges. Ad infinitum.

  • Daniel Speight

    I suspect history will deal better with Gordon Brown over the financial meltdown than with his critics. This should not absolve him from his very clear part in the making of the crisis though.


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