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© Ellie Foreman-Peck

On the whole, modern man has no solutions. So said Alexander Herzen in a letter to his son written in Twickenham on January 1, 1855. A century and a half later, many Tory MPs blame David Cameron for having no solutions. Their grumbling is amplified by the feral beasts of the press, who find it easy to show that the Prime Minister has fallen below the high standards set by editors. To these authorities, no problem is insoluble as long as their advice is followed. It has become fashionable to dismiss Cameron as a failure, who is leading his party to inevitable defeat, and to speculate about a leadership challenge.

In such a climate, Cameron's good qualities are bound to be disregarded. They do not fit with the prevailing story. To praise him is to question the perspicacity of his critics.

But here are some of the virtues which have to be ignored if the narrative of failure is to be sustained. The Prime Minister is a good employer. He tries to give people jobs for which they have some aptitude, in fields of which they may even have prior knowledge, and to leave them there for long enough to achieve something. Such an approach is an affront to the British system of government, and I do not suppose Cameron will be able to maintain it indefinitely. But his practice of refraining from frequent reshuffles is brave and right.

Cameron is loyal to his friends. To his critics on the backbenches, this is one of his most deplorable characteristics. If only he sacked his friends, he would be able to give jobs to his enemies. They yearn for him to sack George Osborne, though if that were to occur, I doubt it would satisfy their blood lust for more than five minutes. 

The public thinks more highly of Cameron than of Ed Miliband in part because the Prime Minister manages, for example during his appearances at the dispatch box, to give the reassuring impression that he knows what he is talking about. Cameron is no doubt skilful at concealing ignorance. But he is also good at mastering a brief. When one considers the amount of material a Prime Minister needs to absorb, and the joy which the press takes in detecting gaffes, this is a considerable achievement.

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Malcolm Redfellow
April 5th, 2013
10:04 AM
On this one, I'm with yer missus.

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