Cameron must leave room to tackle passionate issues
By George Eustice, Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth, on why David Cameron needs to trusts his intuition.
Being Prime Minister with the scale of the financial problems facing the country in 2010 was never going to be easy. The need for a coalition to be formed at the same time presented an even greater challenge.
David Cameron made a good start but, halfway through this parliament and after a stormy period in the wake of the Budget, now is a good time to take stock, assess what is and is not working and, importantly, decide what must be done to get things back on track.
All governments suffer the same fate once in power: Bad news floats to the top and good news usually sinks without trace. This Government is no different, enduring endless attacks about "cuts" that were inevitable whatever party came to power. Small mistakes made in the budget made headlines for months, whereas successes, such as cutting the deficit by a quarter, sorting out the welfare system, opening new schools, taking two million people out of income tax and making almost £9 billion of efficiency savings, have all gone relatively unnoticed.
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So the first thing to do is redouble efforts to ensure that success is highlighted. Making good news float is not easy; after four years as the head of press for the Conservatives, I should know!
But it is not impossible either: it requires creative thinking and careful planning. It is not enough to just send out some press release that most journalists will ignore, the Government must find ways of integrating messages about what has been achieved within the prevailing political discourse.
The second challenge is ensuring much better connections between government departments and Number 10. Again, easier said than done. In all my time working in politics, there were three phrases that I was condemned to hear over and again: "Who agreed to this?", "Did we know this was happening?" and "Why wasn't I consulted?" Maintaining clear direction and joining up myriad departments, all with their own agendas, is not easy, but again, neither it is impossible with the right people and structure at the centre to bind things together.
Most importantly, David Cameron needs to craft a compelling narrative about what he wants to achieve between now and 2015. There is a danger that the need for compromise in a coalition has left some people wondering whether David Cameron has convictions and what he stands for. As someone who worked closely with him, I can vouch that he does have strong convictions but these are also tempered by a propensity towards pragmatism.
He needs, however, to learn to trust his intuition. His instincts are usually right and when people see him delivering a speech from the heart, he connects with them in a big way, but when people feel that he is reading a civil service script, they are left uninspired.
David Cameron revitalised and broadened the appeal of the Conservative Party. He genuinely cares about tackling poverty and strengthening the family. He is irritated by things like the Human Rights Act and the European Union when they interfere in domestic policy and he has always had a passion for improving schools and restoring rigour and discipline.
This Government will stand or fall on its economic legacy so David Cameron needs to allow some bold thinking to emerge to cut the burden of regulation and to help entrepreneurs, because that is the only way to get this country moving again – there is no quick fix that government spending could deliver. But, although economic policy is likely to remain his priority, the PM should also create the space in his agenda for some of those other aspects of Conservative belief where he is at his most passionate.