Saturday, July 11, 2009

Problems of identity
Why has no one yet managed to draw a decent caricature of the president? Cartoonists are struggling to sketch anything that is even recognisable as Obama, let alone funny.
Compare this failure to their cousins across the pond, who have represented Gordon Brown as a walking corpse and his chief rival David Cameron as Little Lord Fauntleroy.
That's a posting on Slate, last May.

Well, the "Little Lord Fauntleroy" is originally © Dennis Skinner, from way back; but it has been deliciously refined by Martin Rowson for his Guardian cartoons (above).

Meanwhile, the world has been waiting for the sunrise of Steve Bell's definitive nailing. His latest version is quite promising:
It looks as if this one has legs.

The cartoonist's dilemma

The essential problem is that Cameron has been assiduous in being all-things-to-all-men, masking any convincing identity, which is why Steve Bell may have the clincher.

Two hard-right commentators today are posing the consequences and questions implicit in that. First we have the Torygraph's Simon Heffer on disillusion among Tory MPs over Cameron's "cronyism":
It is now widely felt that mates of Dave had preferential treatment, not just from the party committee that investigated them, but from the party machine itself. Spin doctors and parliamentary colleagues were sent out to prop up certain key mates who had done unethical things with the public's money. People who were not key mates were hung out to dry. In an atmosphere already fraught with self-pity, over-emotionalism and blame-shifting, the perception of Dave as having been partisan in the recent conduct of the affairs of his party is now festering nicely.
Heffer has never bought the full Cameroonie, so this is no hot friend cooling.

Then there is Peter Oborne up front with the crux of the matter:
Amoral spiv or true traditional Tory? Will the REAL Cameron please stand up
Since this is the Daily Wail, there has to be a conventional gesture to Cameroon groupies and gropies:
the traditional, God-fearing Tory with a social conscience ... a brave and patriotic individual who is driven by a sense of public duty and responsible social obligation ... a strong sense of history and high integrity.
Yawn, well ... sort of. Then the knife goes in, quite deliciously:
there is also the other David Cameron who - and I'm afraid there's no way of putting it politely - is a bit of a spiv.

This is someone who is at ease with the more louche elements of London's media world and who, before entering Parliament, worked in corporate affairs for the controversial media mogul Michael Green.
Green, it should be recalled, rose through some curious dealings (and a back-stairs operation to Thatcher's Cabinet) to build a TV empire, which then crashed disastrously. The analogy with Cameron is unmissable: up like the rocket, and down like the stick.

The dichotomy between Hefferlump and Oborne is that man-of-the-hour, Andy Coulson. Heffer thinks he will survive, another beneficiary of Cameron's patronage (and thereby fuelling further mutterings): Oborne reckons he should and will be defenestrated.

The end-game cometh

There is a tectonic shift happening. The last few days are revealing that all is not well in the House of Dave. Coulson has become the story (and it is a cliché widely-employed among the chattering classes that this is the end of a media-manipulator's usefulness); but it is a symptom, not a cause of the general malaise.

The Tories will hang together, until the election. Osborne will impose that discipline (and earn himself no boy scout badges therein). There will be many aggrieved back-benchers whose loyalty will have to be bought by future employment or cheap, shoddy titles. There will be Constituency Association officials who will resent dictation from above. As we move deeper and deeper into election year, the wagons will pull into a tighter, more defensive circle: that will cause distress among the journos who are convinced they have a right to be inside the laager.

One can read all that, and more, into William Hague's plea for party discipline this last week. He was addressing the Westminster and City of London Tories:
Part of his challenge was to convince the audience that the next General Election was not in the bag. That is a problem he would have been pleased to have to cope with when he was leader.
"We need to gain 116 constituencies in one go in order to win," he said. "That will be a Herculean effort. It is not something we take for granted."
Almost poetically, changing only the boilerplate metaphor, that repeats what Hague said in 1997, on winning the leadership potty:
We have a mountain to climb, a hard battle to win. But together, united and reformed, we can and we will prevail.
The subtext here is almost one of pathos. In the hands of a tragedian, we would sense impending nemesis.

For, the central problem remains. Above all, as long as the flashy, trashy wishful-thinkings and rivial, cliché-ridden spoutings persist, at the expense of any credible, cohesive policy, the images of the velveteen dude and the jellyfish will grow in relevance. As with every fallen, former media darling:
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard.
A favourite has no friend!
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