By Tim Montgomerie
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Immediately after the Budget and during the fuel panic the big attack on Cameron was that his operation wasn't very competent.
A month ago the suggestion was that he was too posh.
Now there's a rush of stories alleging that he's a bit, well, lazy…
- The most ridiculous was in the Daily Mail: "Date-night-Dave finds time to go home, put on his trendiest gear and take Sam out for a swanky dinner"! The human translation of that headline is "Husband changes after work and takes wife out for nice dinner".
- The Times (£) is also on the case. Its Saturday splash left readers with the suggestion that Cameron relaxed too much – ‘If there was a gold medal for chillaxing Dave would win it’, He watches "crap" films, plays tennis and had a few glasses of wine… on Sundays!
- More serious was an aside in Fraser Nelson's Friday column. The PM, we learnt, spends “a crazy, scary amount of time playing Fruit Ninja on his iPad”. Melissa Kite wants him to do something more productive when he chillaxes than "silly games". Horse-riding, perhaps?.
The critique is now embroiling other members of the Government. George Osborne is under fire for attending Saturday night's Champions League Final with – wait for it – the German Finance Minister! I, for one, think it's quite good that Mr Osborne (a lifelong Chelsea fan) and Herr Schäuble may be developing a bond. But it's no good — Guido Fawkes paints the PM as a lounger while Europe burns in the background.
Number 10 are clearly alive to the danger. Last week at PMQs the PM made a point of telling Peter Hain that he heard him at 5.45am on Farming Today (Note to readers – the ConHome daily editor starts work at around 5.30am). In his piece for ConHome last week Grant Shapps emphasised Cameron's determination to ensure the Coalition's government was properly implemented.
So how much does all of this matter? It all depends. If the economy is relatively strong or is strengthening by the time of the election it won't matter at all. If there is a suggestion that government policies haven't been thought-through or are inadequate to the challenges it could matter. It's surely essential that Cameron has time off with his wife and children. Although the coverage is getting silly I've long worried that Cameron isn't as committed to the job as he probably needs to be (see point ten from this August 2010 piece). The solution is a beefed-up Number 10 operation. Ministers don't go to meetings with the PM and fear they'll meet awkward and searching questions about their proposals. Only a more political and powerful policy unit will start to keep every minister on their toes. That would require a U-turn on the SpAds policy (a concern raised by ConHome in May 2010).