My how times change. I remember when David Cameron used to mercilessly taunt Gordon Brown week after week about lacking a clear vision as Prime Minister. It helped defined Gordon Brown as a ditherer, a man who’d schemed for years to become Prime Minister with no idea of what he wanted to do when he got it (totally unlikely Tony Blair who always wanted to be Prime Minister and had a completely detailed plan of what he wanted to do in power…which only came to him into his second term).
Now, David Cameron is Prime Minister and has to set out his vision. While we have the Big Society, which even Tories don’t like as they can’t sell it ‘on the door’ as it were, slowly but surely we’re seeing glimpses of how Cameron is as a leader and Prime Minister, and at the moment it seems more reactive than proactive.
His speech on foreign policy, so Nick Robinson has heard, was a difficult one to write. Why? Because, although Robinson doesn’t put it so bluntly, Cameron doesn’t have a foreign policy ‘vision’, he doesn’t know what he wants for British foreign policy so like so many Tories before him he merely bangs on about attracting business before stealing Gordon Brown’s words about ‘hard-headed internationalism’ and finishing with a flourish about how ‘ethical’ our foreign policy will be. As if any leader is going to stand up and say ‘From today I can announce Britain has a new foreign policy, one entirely based on a lack of ethics. We will be to ethics what Milli Vanilli were to quality, live performances. No deed will be too under-handed and unethical for the UK government to fully support.’
Our Shadow Foreign Sec, Yvette Cooper is latching on to this, saying Cameron is playing the ‘spectator, not the statesman’ on the world stage.
But its Robinson’s final paragraph in his blog post that to me is the most damning statement so far, after a list of the guiding visions of Prime Ministers from Thatcher onwards, stating that with Cameron is going to be defined by events, rather than a vision:
“It is hard to escape the conclusion that foreign policy under David Cameron will be much more defined by what happens – by events, in other words – and much less by any guiding vision.”
What a grand vision for Britain’s place on the world stage.