Perhaps if David Cameron did not look as if he was enjoying himself so much, the Conservative party’s chances of winning the next election would improve. At PMQs today, he looked more sombre than usual, and it suited him. Here was a sober man, talking in a not very interesting way about an economic policy which may be starting to work.
There was nothing cocky about this Cameron. I suspect that as a matter of pride, or oneupmanship, or even of good manners, he has sometimes been determined to appear buoyant even when he does not feel so. To remain cheerful is a way of demonstrating that one has not been beaten, and may also make one’s company less burdensome to other people.
But excessive cheerfulness can be an infuriating quality, and it suddenly occurs to me – I know I can rely on ConHome readers to correct me if I am wrong – that throughout his leadership Cameron has tended towards that fault. To elect and then keep in office a gilded youth or bumptious patrician who somehow manages, despite everything, to have a good time, is for millions of voters an intensely irritating prospect: an almost unforgiveable offence against the spirit of equality which became so hideously visible in the French Revolution.
The best expression Cameron used today was when he said there would not be “one ounce of complacency” in the Government’s response to the news that unemployment has once again fallen. This could, of course, be a very complacent thing to say, but Cameron’s demeanour did not betray undue self-satisfaction. One is glad, by the way, to note that complacency is still measured in imperial units. A gram of complacency would not be at all the same thing.
It would nevertheless be a good idea for the Prime Minister to become a bit less articulate, and for his hair to turn grey at a much faster pace than it is at present managing to do: there are no doubt commercial hair preparations, available at the better class of barber, which will assist in this process. The better the British economy performs, the more he should be seen to suffer. His continuance in office should be seen to be a matter of painful duty rather than eagerly embraced pleasure. He should on no account allow himself to have a merry Christmas. Only then will the British public find him tolerable.
The Prime Minister told a joke, but luckily for his new, more sober persona, it was not a very good one. In the course of some routine abuse of Ed Balls, he produced the line: “It doesn’t have to be Christmas to know when you’re sitting next to a turkey.”
Ed Miliband retaliated with an even less amusing line: “I tell you what, that was a turkey of an answer, Mr Speaker.” But Miliband found himself unable to make much headway, for he felt obliged to welcome the fall in unemployment, and although he complained about “the cost of living crisis”, he betrayed no sign of having the faintest idea what to do about it.