Published:

By Peter Hoskin
Follow Peter on Twitter

Who
is David Cameron? Or, rather, how should he come across? This question has
exercised the minds of Tory strategists for at least a couple of years now, and
for two particular reasons. First, Coalition government has eroded the public’s
sense of the Prime Minister. Second, as I wrote
recently
, Mr Cameron has, to some extent, always been able to flit between
statesmanlike and chummy. Do the times call for one over the other?

And
this is why the Prime Minister’s trip to New York is so striking — for what we
appear to be getting is a selection of the many faces of Dave, or at least an
attempt at a selection. For example:

David William Donald Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, First Lord
of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Conservative
Party.
On the day of Nick Clegg’s conference speech, and a week before Ed
Miliband’s, Mr Cameron is flexing his own vocal chords, and in no less a
setting than the United Nations building. The subject of his speech is suitably
Prime Ministerial: the progress of the Arab Spring, which he is said to remain
optimistic about. And what’s going on around it is similarly high-level: for
example, a meeting with Egypt’s President, Mohammed Morsi, will involve discussions
about giving British
military advice
to the country. Of course, Mr Cameron couldn’t have helped
the timing of this UN General Assembly, but it’s almost as if he’s saying, “Could
you imagine Ed Miliband doing this? Really?”


David Cameron, compassionate man. Yesterday, Mr Cameron restated his commitment
to the Millennium Development Goals, including the pledge to spend 0.7 per cent
of our national income on aid. This should come as no surprise — he did
likewise in the aftermath of the Olympics — but No.10 will still hope that it
strengthens his credentials as a charitable globalist, particularly as it comes
in the face of opposition from many Tory backbenchers.

David Cameron, technological whizz. Technology was one of the main early themes
of Mr Cameron’s leadership: how it can advance opportunity, how it can break
down power structures, etc, etc. But his public commitment to it has since appeared
to wane — to the extent that, in an Times
article (£)
last month, I suggested that he start talking about it again.
But he may not need the advice any more, given his surprise appearance at a
technology conference yesterday. Let’s hope he keeps it up, as this is both an optimistic and economically hard-headed story for him to focus on.  

Dave, funny guy. And then there’s the part of Mr Cameron’s visit to New York
that is garnering the most attention: his appearance on the David Letterman
chat show tonight. Some people may be wondering what he’s let himself in for,
but there’s really no cause for alarm. As the Guardian points out in an
editorial
today, Mr Letterman is a light and benign interviewer, even when
he starts with the gags. And this should also be on opportunity for Cameron to
unveil what Iain Martin described
yesterday
as his “cracking
sense of humour … seen only fleetingly by the media, but he can be very, very
irreverent and amusing.”

I
wonder whether, amid the many aims of David Cameron’s New York trip, there is
one principal, concerted aim: to round out the public’s impression of the man
who is Prime Minister. If that is the case, we shall surely see more of this
balancing act at party conference.

Comments are closed.