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Friday 17 February 2012

David Cameron: Today's Neville Chamberlain?

When describing Britain’s political leadership during the 1930’s Winston Churchill later stated that it was “a long, dismal, drawling tide of drift and surrender”, which ultimately resulted in millions of deaths, worldwide destruction and a national shame that even after the allied victory in 1945, continued to linger whenever the word appeasement was used. Despite Neville Chamberlain being a decent man, who devoted the latter part of his life to public service, during which he introduced national legislation that benefited the everyday lives of millions of his fellow countrymen, in the end it was his policy of appeasement towards foreign tyrants that has defined his historical and political legacy, rather than any of his other great national achievements.

The current Tory incumbent of 10 Downing Street, David Cameron, is a decent man, no doubt, but sadly also seems to share his now infamous predecessor’s willingness to meekly accommodate his opponents, rather than confront them, when the UK’s national interests are at stake. Rather than confront his coalition partners with the realistic threat of electoral annihilation, in the event that they choose to oppose government policy, he compromises and retreats. In the face of Tory backbench rebellions, he first bullies and harasses them, blames his coalition partners, then offers compromises that he has no intention of keeping. In Europe, like Chamberlain, Cameron returned with his own agreement, this time the mythical and much publicised veto; that was actually nothing of the sort, but was in fact yet another compromise of sorts, that at some point in time he’ll no doubt try and sneak past the British electorate when they’re not paying attention. More money for the IMF to rescue the failing Euro experiment will be yet another compromise to be added to the list, just as soon as he and Gideon can find a form of words that will allow the new loans to pass through the Commons unscathed. The best compromise to date though is that offered to the Scottish electorate yesterday. Where a determined and worthwhile British Prime Minister might have confronted First Minister Salmond with a “have your referendum and be damned”, or even arranged for a legally binding ballot to be held on the matter, sooner rather than later, Cameron sought to bribe the Scottish electorate, by offering the promise of “Devo-Max”, but only if they vote no to full independence!

Quite why anyone within the Tory Party imagined that David Cameron would make a good Prime Minister beggars belief, unless of course he was only chosen for his background in PR and the similarly slick characteristics he shares with Tony Blair. At least poor old Neville Chamberlain had the excuse of confronting the likes of Hitler and Mussolini, much more serious and threatening adversaries who both had large military armies to enforce their demands, whereas Cameron is faced by nothing more threatening than a bunch of unelected bureaucrats, third-rate political partners and a nationalist cause that suddenly senses weakness at the heart of central government. Even today, some 70-odd years after the event, Chamberlain is still derided as an appeaser, an apologist, a man prepared to compromise international reputations and sovereign territories in order to avoid making those hard and inevitable decisions that came as part of the biggest job in British politics, that of Prime Minister. Sadly, to date there is little sign that David Cameron is prepared to make those hard decisions either, which begs the question, will his term of office be as short, ignoble and disastrous as his unfortunate Tory predecessor?

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