Tuesday, 1 May 2012
When Prime Ministers attack
Yesterday's House of Commons statement by the Prime Minister (above) was fascinating. David Cameron raged (above). He shouted. He growled. He snarled. His hands shook. He smacked his folder down. He waved his arms about. He insulted older members of the House. He patronised female members of the House (not that this was anything new). He went red. He went redder.
He's making a bit of a habit of all this. When challenged, he can lose his rag. He's been steadily alienating Members on all sides when they say or do things he doesn't like - men and women who, he will discover, have long, long, long memories. They won't forgive. They won't forget. When he needs them, they'll disappear.
But that's beside the point, really. All PMs alienate people - though Mr Cameron should note that the best among our leaders do not shout, insult and berate. Mr Wilson and Mrs Thatcher were rather scrupulous in their personal dealings. Mr Blair hated to sack people. No-one could be more solicitous of secretaries' and doormen's welfare and feelings than The Lady, except perhaps Mr Callaghan and Mr Major.
In fact, what's so intriguing is that we're looking through a little window onto the soul of our leader. Historians are only just beginning to uncover the hidden emotional and psycho-social histories of the premiership, and fascinating they are too. Winston Churchill's depression. Anthony Eden's mania and breakdown. Harold Macmillan's outward laconic and Edwardian poise - matched in private only by his teeth-grinding, crying and weeping over his wife's affair with another Conservative MP. Harold Wilson's (perhaps sometimes justified) paranoia. Mrs T's drinking. Gordon Brown's titanic and bullying eruptions.
Mr Cameron is unusual in that he's letting us see into his soul. The thing to note? What we're seeing isn't that edifying.