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The voters won't forget Cameron's record, no matter what's in the budget

The Prime Minister's advisers think keeping him out of the spotlight keeps him fresh in the public mind. But people aren't stupid

With the election campaign entering its final weeks, we’re going to see a whole lot more of the party leaders, whether it’s on the party political broadcasts, on campaign posters or on one of the ridiculously-debated-debates-that’s-format-is-still-being-debated.

I remember reading some time ago that David Cameron’s advisers were urging him to pull back on public engagement. They worried that with a few years to go until the election the electorate would grow bored of seeing his face and he’d be seen as an old timer before this May; he has after all been an MP since 2001 and Conservative leader for 10 years this year, that’s two years more than Nick Clegg and double Ed Miliband.

The advisers believed Cameron, and politicians more broadly, have a sell by date and this date comes sooner the more the politician is in the public eye. The more they’re seen, the longer their perceived to have been around, making them less attractive to those fed up with the establishment and status quo.  

They’re probably right, lots of people don’t like David Cameron, and the more they see him, the more they’re reminded they don’t like him or many other politicians all that much. But not putting Cameron in the public eye as often isn’t good politics, its trickery, and perpetuates the sort of bad politics the British public are so disillusioned with.

I’d like to give the public more credit, just by Cameron not being on their TVs as much in the last few years, they’re still going to know he’s the Prime Minister, and they’re still going to know he’s ultimately responsible for the cuts their local public services have faced, the pay freezes they have felt and the suffering they have seen.

This week George Osborne’s budget is widely predicted to be an election give away. The press have already reported he’ll be giving the public more freedom over their pensions and reducing business rates. Similarly the Lib Dems announced this weekend a £1.25bn support package for mental health provisions, even though they have been part of a Government that has cut children’s mental health services by more than £50 million since 2010.

Just as the electorate remember who has been PM despite his advisers’ best efforts to stop him falling victim to voter fatigue, they’ll also remember the policies that have affected so many, so badly, whatever the Government announces on Wednesday.

 

Beth Miller writes on international and security affairs in her personal capacity. She tweets @BethMiller91.

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Commons Confidential: Dave's picnic with Dacre

Revenge is a dish best served cold from a wicker hamper.

Sulking David Cameron can’t forgive the Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre, for his role in his downfall. The unrelenting hostility of the self-appointed voice of Middle England to the Remain cause felt pivotal to the defeat. So, what a glorious coincidence it was that they found themselves picnicking a couple of motors apart before England beat Scotland at Twickenham. My snout recalled Cameron studiously peering in the opposite direction. On Dacre’s face was the smile of an assassin. Revenge is a dish best served cold from a wicker hamper.

The good news is that since Jeremy Corbyn let Theresa May off the Budget hook at Prime Minister’s Questions, most of his MPs no longer hate him. The bad news is that many now openly express their pity. It is whispered that Corbyn’s office made it clear that he didn’t wish to sit next to Tony Blair at the unveiling of the Iraq and Afghanistan war memorial in London. His desire for distance was probably reciprocated, as Comrade Corbyn wanted Brigadier Blair to be charged with war crimes. Fighting old battles is easier than beating the Tories.

Brexit is a ticket to travel. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is lifting its three-trip cap on funded journeys to Europe for MPs. The idea of paying for as many cross-Channel visits as a politician can enjoy reminds me of Denis MacShane. Under the old limits, he ended up in the clink for fiddling accounts to fund his Continental missionary work. If the new rule was applied retrospectively, perhaps the former Labour minister should be entitled to get his seat back and compensation?

The word in Ukip is that Paul Nuttall, OBE VC KG – the ridiculed former Premier League professional footballer and England 1966 World Cup winner – has cold feet after his Stoke mauling about standing in a by-election in Leigh (assuming that Andy Burnham is elected mayor of Greater Manchester in May). The electorate already knows his Walter Mitty act too well.

A senior Labour MP, who demanded anonymity, revealed that she had received a letter after Leicester’s Keith Vaz paid men to entertain him. Vaz had posed as Jim the washing machine man. Why, asked the complainant, wasn’t this second job listed in the register of members’ interests? She’s avoiding writing a reply.

Years ago, this column unearthed and ridiculed the early journalism of George Osborne, who must be the least qualified newspaper editor in history. The cabinet lackey Ben “Selwyn” Gummer’s feeble intervention in the Osborne debate has put him on our radar. We are now watching him and will be reporting back. My snouts are already unearthing interesting information.

Kevin Maguire is the associate editor (politics) of the Daily Mirror

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution