Yesterday we noted the hare versus tortoise debate amongst Conservative strategists. Ben Brogan noted it on his blog and Steve Richards asks Ken Clarke about the tension for this weekend’s GMTV Sunday Programme. The former Chancellor manages to mangle the debate as being between a hare and a rabbit!
Kenneth Clarke: I don’t know it. I’m not a blog man.
Steve Richards: Full of Conservative party members blogging on and some of them raising quite interesting questions about the style of David Cameron, some saying should he move faster, is he being a bit too cautious, others questioning the soundbite approach, arguably, at Prime Minister’s Question Time. I just wonder, as someone who’s been on that Front Bench, in front of that box, albeit not at leader level but at just about every other level, what do you think about the style?
Ken Clarke: I’ve known a journalist trying to describe to me this week as the hare versus rabbit theory…
Steve Richards: That’s the thing going on.
Ken Clarke: I thought that listening to this I was probably a hare, if he got it the right way round. I think what David needs to do… He has the opportunity to be Prime Minister and the public are looking to him as a possible Prime Minister, that’s a huge advance, but they’re not certain yet, and because he’s new, he’s inexperienced, they’re getting to know him, I think he’s capable of doing it myself, what he needs to approach everything with is a statesmanlike attitude of thinking what am I going to do in government. He is doing the work on policy that we did when Margaret was our leader – you’ve really got to know what the devil you’re going to do when you take over, if you take over. It requires a lot of work. But you must only commit yourself to things you’re going to do. You must look and sound like a Prime Minister. A combative one. One who can score points off your opponent. One who can get into the headlines sometimes. But what people want to see is someone who they think’s going to grow into being a Prime Minister in two or three years’ time. Now, insofar as I understand, this bizarre argument about which particular pet you are, I think that makes me a hare rather than a rabbit. Don’t panic, you got two…
Steve Richards: Fewer soundbites in this Prime Ministerial…?
Ken Clarke: Well… You need the odd soundbite but not too many. It is a
long slog. Opposition is a hateful process. Just imagine if you were
David Cameron being told you’ve got more than two years of this to go
yet because Gordon’s going to have to go the full term, he’s not going
to go early. That’s why he’s postponing Identity Cards. So you’ve got
two years to go, and that’s two years hard work constantly without
putting your foot in it, presenting yourself to the nation as a man, a
responsible person capable of governing the country, without being
boring, showing you win the party argument, being combative, but make
people think, now this guy’s a better Prime Minister than the one we’ve
had before and that should make him resist people who want him to make
crazy promises, react to events, get a quick headline in one of the
right-wing newspapers. He’s got to calm his party down on the sillier
things. He’s got to lead his party responsibly into new areas, look as
though he can govern a modern country, and that probably doesn’t
altogether fit the hare or the rabbit, but I think it fits what’s
needed to win the government in these rather turbulent times."
One Cameron soundbite that really is working is the "ditherer" attack on Brown. It’s taken up by The Telegraph in today’s leader and by Jon Craig on the Sky News blog. Brown has principally dithered on Northern Rock, Capital Gains Tax, the autumn election and Peter Hain.