You may have noticed something different about the Prime Minister in the past few days. He’s rolled his sleeves up. He’s taken his tie off. He’s being a bit shouty. He’s started turning red again (a distinctive PMQs hue that we haven’t seen since parliament dissolved). He’s saying things like “pumps me up”, “stick it where the sun don’t shine”, and “bloody”.
Rather than hiding behind badly photoshopped posters of Nicola Sturgeon as a puppetmaster and hordes of dead-eyed party functionaries wearing Alex Salmond masks, he is finally fighting an election campaign. Or at least that’s what he’s trying to do.
Following a competent few weeks from Labour (as Stephen outlines), and accusations that the Tories are running a lacklustre campaign, David Cameron is studiously Being Passionate. Watch him, shirtsleeves unleashed, during a speech where he harangues his audience about the suggestion that Tories “don’t always shout with the passion that some people would like”:
And here he is in a later speech, gesticulating wildly:
…it “PUMPS ME UP”:
Following this speech, stunned journalists asked him about his sudden change of tone. “If I’m getting lively about it it’s because I feel bloody lively about it!” he bellowed.
There are some problems with this new approach.
Firstly, he is brazenly acknowledging and drawing attention to the fact that the Tory campaign has been flat. Not a great admission to supporters and the electorate.
Secondly, a raging, rattled Cameron doesn’t fit with his party’s appeal. The Conservative message is confidence over chaos, economic competence, a steady road to recovery. A calm, collected Cameron fits with this message far better than one reddening and roaring in the heat of desperation.
Thirdly, there’s the Bullingdon effect. Cameron has been criticised by Alastair Campbell for being “too posh to push” for an election win. And that’s true. He is too posh to behave that way. As soon as he starts ranting and turning scarlet, viewers are reminded not of a slick, safe statesman, but of a bully on the rampage. A tyrannical lord of the manor who’s been awoken from his slumber by an improperly-timed dinner gong.
Earlier this month, Ian Leslie wrote in the NS that Cameron “looks like a man who has lost his desire for the job”. Tacked on as an afterthought to his campaign, the PM’s latest performances expose this more than ever.