Alexander Deane is a barrister, author and former Chief of Staff to David Cameron.
During the recent Question Time furore over what could and could not be asked of him, Tony Blair spoke about his view of Gordon Brown’s record, and had a pop at David Cameron’s pre-Parliamentary career:
“A record that has delivered, as Chancellor, the lowest inflation, lowest unemployment, lowest interest rates in this country’s history – that has managed the strongest growth of any major industrial economy.
And as a result delivered record investment in the NHS – is a rather better recommendation than having spent some time advising Norman Lamont on Black Wednesday.”
It’s pretty cheap stuff, isn’t it? Voters will go on a party’s and a leader’s platform of policies, and their judgment of the qualities of those leaders – not their activities before they entered Parliament. But I was surprised by this line even beyond its shallowness – because on its own terms, it’s something on which Blair and Brown lose.
Whilst training for the Bar, I would watch cases conducted by more senior barristers. I therefore watched the evidence unfold in a case of brutal and unprovoked murder in court last year. The case was solved solely by CCTV evidence. I have no qualms in admitting that watching that evidence was the most upsetting thing I’ve ever had to do, and I simply cannot imagine how upsetting it was for the relatives of the victim. But I know that they must have been comforted by the conviction of the killer. I also know that in that pre-Parliamentary incarnation Tony Blair mocked, David Cameron was instrumental in the introduction of the network of CCTV cameras.
You may or may not agree with CCTV cameras (indeed, before working in the criminal justice system, I was less than sure myself). But regardless of your position, I think it’s difficult to casually dismiss the work David Cameron did whilst working on such policies. Compare it with the pre-Parliamentary political activities of Blair and Brown – Brown was writing pamphlets calling for the nationalisation of supermarkets, and Blair was marching for CND. And remember that Cameron and Co don’t call them on it, don’t seek to make an issue of such fundamental wrongheadedness – but if Labour choose a fight on that ground, they’re making a serious mistake.