The one thing that distinguishes a politician of substance is the capacity to say something meaningful.

Few politicians are capable of this. The Dup’s Jim Wells makes sense most of the time. He can stand up and put a sensible point across fluently and not infrequently a point which is at variance with party policy.

Martin Mc Guinness has come through as a big surprise probably more so to the protestant community and outside the island of Ireland.

He has spoken meangingfully with clarity and forthrightness on many matters in recent years.

This brings me to David Cameron.
David Miliband fired a cheap shot at the PM saying he must not sound like ‘a loud mouth.’

This is rich from Mr Miliband who has yet to say anything memorable or quotable.

Cameron is rapidly shaking off the sobriquet of PR salesman.

He is showing himself to be much more substantial. On Bloody Sunday he silenced the shallowness and idiocy of many unionist voices on what Saville adjudicated to be the killing of innocent people by members of the parachute regiment.

He told it as he read it in India in speaking of the behaviour of the Pakistan government.

The jury is out on his ‘big society’ project.

I would enter one caveat however as far as David Cameron goes.

He is starting to sound a little like Mrs Thatcher. He must guard against inheriting her hectoring tone.

Watching how his political philosophy is given shape in the coming months will be fascinating. He has made an impressive start in an extraordinary era. Will Afghanistan be his achilles heel? He shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Tony Blair’s career was potentially irretrievably damaged because of Iraq. Eamonn Mallie

  • DC

    On Turkey he can talk about that country joining the EU all he wants but he hopelessly lost on Europe because he isn’t really a part of it at all.

    It’s hot air on that front and the politicians there are I’m sure blissfully ignoring what Cameron says basically because they have more pressing matters taking the priority over his speech.

    The American situation both on BP and Libya has been side step with a lot of fuzz, an inquiry into the decision made by the Scottish authorities – yet another inquiry into something – are politicians not able to lay out some useful and meaningful background on how they reached that decision in the end?

    I do have some warm connection with his sentiments around big society – but sadly it is probably about 30% theory and 70% sentiment.

    If you appeal to sentiment you ditch a lot of reason leaving only a sense of grievance as the main motivator for change.

    If he goes with the cuts as planned I reckon he will be lucky to do his 5 years.

  • Pete Baker

    Eamonn, I got more insight out of your twittering.

  • He got the date of America entering the 2nd WW wrong, that irritated a lot of people, but Sky news loved it. Talk of being a ‘junior’ partner, however accurate, would also annoy people, especially as most would rather there was no partnership at all.

    Jury’s out but he does look and sound interesting.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Pete is unfortunately correct. Eamonn just can’t finish a thought – where’s the substance?

    The big society, which is unanimously accepted as a PR façade for small government?

    The India comments, diplomatically disastrous and based on slavish following of the Washington response to the Wikileaks reports.

    On the Bloody Sunday report, he followed the line. We know that a Labour PM would have said exactly the same things. Nice presentation though.

    On Turkey, his decision to join with quasi-fascists negates the influence he could have had – as pointed out consistently by Merkel and Sarkozy. It’s so subtle it makes me want to go back to the first Yes, Minister.

    He is facing open mocking from his own senior party members, during his political honeymoon.

    He is implementing a budget that serves private interests above national interests.

    He didn’t win the election after thirteen years of neoliberal Labour.

    He has said nothing of substance since he took over. I am stunned that anyone should be convinced by so little, let alone a journalist. Or perhaps not;

    But then, if Eamonn is so impressed by this “political philosophy” that he longs to see it unfold, perhaps he could outline what it is exactly?

  • DC

    Yes good point about the date.

  • fair_deal

    He’s not a Thatcher. He’s a Heath.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Tony Bliars “career was potentially irretrievably damaged becaus of Iraq”
    Potentially? Only ….Potentially?
    For a man who admires forthrightness and telling it like it is and saying something meaningful…………Mr Mallies views on the former PM are not very forthright or meaningful.
    Telling it like it is……Blair is a figure of near universal ridicule…and Id be surprised if anyone, anywhere could ever re-habilitate him.
    While I much admire Jim Wells, I cant actually see him as a significant politician as Martin McGuinness so why he figues in a post…supposedly about Cameron is hard to understand.

    I dont doubt Camerons preference for hard core Thatcherism…….but he is realistic enough to know that it would be foolish not to go down that road again. And he needs to be more concilatory.
    The Big Society will go the same way as Labours marching anti social elements off to ATMs to pay for their crimes.

  • Oracle

    Quality instead of quantity is a lesson you could take a refresher course on yourself Eamonn

  • Fearglic

    William Haige will be the next Tory leader.

  • Cynic


    What a mean and spiteful little post that seems more calculated to skewer Eamon than cast meaningful light on Cameron. It also perfectly illustrates exactly why the SDLP is unfit for Government and unable to see beyond the end of its own political nose.

    “The big society, which is unanimously accepted as a PR façade for small government?”

    What’s wrong with small Government? What good is big government doing for NI at the moment? Brown’s big government model bled us all dry and has saddled us with debts that will take 20 years to pay off.

    ” The India comments, diplomatically disastrous and based on slavish following of the Washington response to the Wikileaks reports.”

    To put it clearly …**ocks! You are following a facile media line on this. Have no doubt that these remarks were carefully crafted and prepared days before the Wikileaks issue. Pakistan is being sent a message that is part of an overall UK and US reallignment on Afghanistan.

    Delivering this message in India was also calculated given the secret proxy activities of both states in Afghanistan.
    India also has the potential to be a stable democratic and reliable partner in the region and is likely to be the regional superpower within 20 years, and just behind China in Asia. This is strategic positioning for the long term.

    ” a Labour PM would have said exactly the same things”

    a whining little comment that’s unfair to a very clear and unambiguous attempt to acknowledge and apologise for a terrible wrong

    “his decision to join with quasi-fascists ”

    see….there you go again. This was a completely false line pedalled by the desperate Labour party.And if you want to talk about fascists, what NI party aligned itself with a UK political Party that illegally invaded a country and whose actions led to hundreds of thousands of deaths? Why was the SDLP through its Labour partners, the USA’s lap dog?

    ” is facing open mocking from his own senior party members, during his political honeymoon.”

    sorry ….were you thinking of your own party leader?

    “He is implementing a budget that serves private interests above national interests.”

    They have inherited a dreadful economic position created by a Party which the SDLP consistently supported and voted with. The national interest lies in paying this off before the currency is further debased.

    Given your Party’s stong support of Labour, instead of raising taxes perhaps we should send the bill to Margaret? Will you help pay it off? Will you acknowledge your party’s complicity when you have to explain to voters why the Government cant afford to replace Granny’s hip or repair their child’s school? Will you apologise to pensioners who when retiring find their pensions have been decimated not just by the falls in the stockmarket but by the Labour Government (which your Party supported) taxing their pension pot year on year and leaving them in greater poverty?

    Come on now Damian…. Cameron stood up and was big enough to acknowledge past wrongs. Where are you?

  • Cynic

    If he learns to spell

  • Fearglic

    It’s my way of being sarcy

  • DC
  • Damian O’Loan


    That was an attack on the SDLP. Fine, but I’m not responsible for an organisation I’m not a member of. I’ll take your points though:

    Firstly, let’s not debate small/big government. The point is that the ‘concept’ is void of novelty and so pure marketing. It is not an example of substance.

    “bo**ocks! You are following a facile media line on this. Have no doubt that these remarks were carefully crafted and prepared days before the Wikileaks issue.”

    I had guessed that perhaps the Pentagon weren’t surprised by the leak. I think they may have had a few days to prepare a response. That doesn’t make them prudent or sensible.

    “Delivering this message in India was also calculated given the secret proxy activities of both states in Afghanistan.
    India also has the potential to be a stable democratic and reliable partner in the region and is likely to be the regional superpower within 20 years, and just behind China in Asia.”

    It was dangerous given the two countries present a global nuclear war risk and are going through a particularly difficult period. Thank you for the geopolitics lesson – I’m aware that India is an important trading partner, or destination for UK-based capital.

    “a whining little comment that’s unfair to a very clear and unambiguous attempt to acknowledge and apologise for a terrible wrong”

    No, my comment reflects the fact that British policy in NI does not vary between governments. Yes, the apology was welcome – and just. No, it doesn’t confer ‘substance’ upon Cameron.

    “This was a completely false line pedalled by the desperate Labour party.”

    No. The Conservative decision to quit the EPP was a strategic mistake. Britain plays a fine line of limiting EU unity from within, this was too far. As even the Telegraph noted:

    “Compounding the problem for Germany and France, Mr Cameron has quit the European Parliament’s main centre-right grouping the European People’s Party (EPP), snubbing an alliance with Mr Sarkozy’s UMP and Miss Merkel’s CDU parties.

    The final straw for the German and French leaders is Mr Cameron’s support for Turkey’s EU membership application, opposed in Berlin and Paris.”

    That’s the realpolitik, here’s the ethical side:

    On Iraq and the SDLP, I will say they voted against the war – unlike Cameron. They vote against Labour when they choose to, there’s no whip. As regards Margaret Ritchie, the issue doesn’t affect me except that I recognise female under-representation to be a problem her presence helps address.

    Cameron is being openly mocked by senior figures a couple of months into what should have been a landslide victory. The two are not comparable, revealing as your choice to counter-attack and not defend may be.

    I quite agree neoliberalism is bad economics, whether executed by Blair, Brown, Bush, Obama or Cameron. Your emotive paragraph shows your lack of argument, it’s not a prose competition. I have nothing to apologise to you for.

    My point was that Cameron has not showed substance and that it is shoddy to present the conclusion on the flimsiest of pretences. You haven’t even defended the idea, merely attacked the SDLP’s positions – go ahead, I did too on the corp. tax thread recently.

    I have no light to shine on Cameron except to say that he has offered nothing of substance, has made several disastrous mistakes and cannot command respect within his own party.

    I do regret my ad hominem first line, Eamonn can obviously finish a thought. He appears not to have thought this one through though: Cameron has been weak.

  • DC

    However, Cameron faces “a different EU political landscape”, with Germany and France, formerly in favour of the Blair initiative, now downright hostile to Turkey joining the EU. MacShane points out that “Cameron’s decision to walk out of the main centre-right political group where Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, plus most other ruling EU parties, confer means that Britain’s voice is absent in the key EU political debate on Turkey.”

    A sceptical Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung picks apart the Cameron contention that a country which is a member of the Nato coalition fighting in Afghanistan should be asked to “guard the camp but not be allowed to sit inside the tent”. If Nato membership is criteria for membership, “the EU should admit Canada as well – and the Americans too. Both of them have more than less in common with Europe; and from a geographical point of view Turkey has only a tiny piece which is ‘European’. But seriously: Why does Cameron actually believe – and with what verve – that he can overstretch the EU without any danger? Dissent between the British and Paris and Berlin is huge – and this key element cannot be bypassed.”

    As I said above about Cameron – hot air – and he can talk all he wants as he is an outsider to many key European politicians.

  • Yeah, yeah: Cameron walks on water, or whatever, whatever …

    It doesn’t alter the ever-growing list of strikes against him:

    Item: He misled his own party colleagues on the nature and intent of his stitched-up coalition. He will not quickly be forgiven for that. He had already annoyed too many in the Party by his cavalier behaviour over his A-list, and the way he was prepared, randomly, to kick the chairs and seats out from under long-serving MPs without his charmed “metrosexual” circle. Meanwhile, others (the egregious Gove for an obvious instance) were allowed to sail through the whole expenses business. There is a great deal of festering discontent in the “turnip Taliban” recesses of the Party.

    Item: He is earning a reputation as an unsafe pair of hands, with a dangerously loose tongue. The “junior partner” thing was just one of a series of telling gaffes. He has subsequently dissed the Israelis (who have a good support network in the Tory party) and the Pakistanis. The Merkel meeting was no great shakes. Turkeys and frogs don’t mix. He now promises that “not a single extra” soldier will be sent to Afghanistan: there’s a mealy-mouth at work. Remember, too, that he is on record, at the Dispatch Box, that unemployment will fall each and every year of this parliament. His ill-concealed contempt for the conventions of Commons business (extending to his malign encouragement of those subverting the Speaker) will rebound on him in due course.

    Item: Europe. The abortion that is the Movement for European Reform. Dan Hannan. UKIP. The “cast-iron” promise that was the centre of the Tory campaign in June ’09, only to be rusted away by November. Say no more. Just hope it all doesn’t come apart in your hand.

    Item: For all the froth, he didn’t come unscathed through unscathed by the claws of Hatty Harman. Come the autumn, with a new Leader of the Opposition (think little brother Ed, despite what Smithson is saying), with the early chickens coming home to roost, with public opinion on the turn, it will be a new scenario.

    Item: When the NHS, the education system, local government, transport, the Courts, the benefits system (especially those bits that benefit the middle classes) and much more have been trashed, when all the support mechanisms are wound down, when all the toys are out of the pram, what’s left? This heap of bloviate verbiage that is the “Big Society”? Aw, c’mon!

    Funny cattle, Joan and Joe Citizen: they are none to keen on change which impinges directly on them. Middle Britain is essentially small-c conservative (which is why they took to Blair). This ConDem coalition is a reversion to ultra-liberalism. Joan and Joe may nod in theoretical approval, but take severe umbrage when they are expected in practice to contribute.

    Item: Why is he spending so much time abroad? that has been an infallible sign of a PM discomfited at home. Is it because he feels threatened by Hague (who, of all the ministers, has been most easy in his skin. Note, too, how Osborne is kept very much in the closet, lest the voters shy away.

    Item: The whole Saville thing. Nuts.

  • Cynic

    It didnt work!!!

  • An outdated reply.

    There’s not a ‘big’ member nation in the EU today who wouldn’t want to be in the UK’s stance. Germany included.

    If you don’t believe that you’ve been under a rock for most of 2010.

  • A N Other

    His comment regarding Gaza was a revelation, in the context of the homogenous arse licking vis a vis Israel that has passed as policy over the past 15 years.

  • DC

    Germany is at the moment reaching close to full employment or as close as it can get – I doubt the same can be said of the UK.

    Where are your facts? Cameron is naff.

  • Frederick Chichester

    Er… Germany unemployment rate: 7.7% & Britain: 7.8% (The Economist).

  • magnus

    Yes Indeed. William Hague is more conscious of the fact, that he was the first Tory leader not to become lPrime Minister, than anyone else alive. He is the unofficial Tory historian of the great man school of history and will move heaven and earth/or await opportunity (“events dear boy, events” ) to restore his reputation. It sounds a good bet to me.

    PS His books are excellent reading

  • Damian O’Loan

    Eamonn Mallie tweets:

    “What sets David Cameron apart to date is his readiness not to slavishly mouth the historic traditional mantra. Some find this challenging.”

    Others would appreciate the occasional hint at evidential argument and consistent premisses and conclusions.

    What is “the historic traditional mantra”?

    What do some find challenging – this soi-disant readiness, or why a view should be accepted on the word of its author alone?

    Where is the evidence of the original claim – substance? Wouldn’t it be better to provide it than such a meaningful and substantial second claim?

    Because that telling it how he reads it isn’t working out to well.

  • DC
  • DC

    The unemployment rate was 7.6 percent, up 0.1 percent compared to the previous month. The slight increase is largely due to seasonal factors.

  • Dev

    It would have been perfectly possible for him to go to India & give rousing, relationship-building speeches without deeply offending Pakistan, which is also an important ally of the UK. He could have easily addressed security issues in Pakistan & between Pakistan & India without insulting the Pakistanis. You know, its called being diplomatic, where you get your point across without being an ass, I believe this “diplomacy” concept is actually quite important in foreign relations. Still, if he burns all his bridges in Asia he still has his quasi-facist friends in Europe to chill with.

  • What should not go unremarked about Nick Robinson’s piece, and Bagehot’s notebook for The Economist made sure it didn’t, was the curious behavior of Sir Humphrey in the nighttime:

    … the documentary clarified the extraordinary role played by the head of the Civil Service, or Cabinet Secretary…

    The impression came across to me, watching, that Sir Gus [O’Donnell] offered encouragement to create a formal coalition, rather than just a minority government backed by a voting pact in parliament. A fragile government would have been too weak to take the difficult decisions needed to restore order to Britain’s public finances, Sir Gus seemed to fear. He may well have had a point, but it is hard to avoid the uneasy sense that Britain’s top mandarin ultimately made a political judgement about what the country needed, as much as a constitutional one.

    That same piece was distinctly unpleasant about the LibDems, pointing at:

    The deep unhappiness of previous Lib Dem leaders at forming an alliance with the Conservatives.

    Added to which there is a distinct sneer (which has some real merit) at:

    the faint whiff of duplicity that hung around Mr Clegg …

    Meanwhile, we have Jack Straw buttering a crust for yesterday’s Times:

    with 79 Tories taking the Queen’s shilling, and another 20 being unpaid aides to Cabinet ministers, the new Tories account for nearly three quarters of Conservative backbenchers. They won’t rebel just yet. But wait a couple of years. The proposed cut of 50 in the number of constituencies will pit every MP against their neighbour in a destabilising scramble for the new, larger seats. That, and a couple of reshuffles will swell the ranks of the disappointed and the never-appointed, and, unless the Government is very lucky, make for a nice toxic brew.

    … we [i.e. Labour] are now being hugely helped bt the reversion to two-party politics, effectively for the first time since the Gang of Four broke away to form the Social Democratic Party in January 1981.

    Once again, a desperate plea: can we have our review facility back, please? Else can anyone suggest a handy, dandy “sand-box” method for checking before posting?

  • Comrade Stalin

    without deeply offending Pakistan, which is also an important ally of the UK.

    Why is it an ally ? The Pakistan government has serious questions to answer about its links to terrorism, especially the relationship between the ISI, Al Quaeda and the Taliban at the time of the 9/11 attacks. The only reason why the US and UK governments play nice with them is because they have nuclear weapons. I’m glad Cameron laid down the law.

    India has a lot of problems but at least it is a functioning democracy, rather than a theocratic state which which operates clandestine relationships with extremist organizations.

  • Damian O’Loan

    India is a democracy, although it is so influenced by a form of Hindu doctrine that preached a totalitarian form of purity that its “functioning” leads often to just the same outcomes as Pakistan’s military rule/democracy.

    Pakistan, like India, is not an ally of the UK/US because it has nuclear weapons, it has nuclear weapons because it is an ally, the technology transfer being to stop the Soviet threat. At that time the UK/US thought Islamicism preferable to communism.

    Pakistan, being far from the only nation with serious questions to answer, perhaps doesn’t appreciate Cameron’s patronising attempt at scolding. It is reasonable for the country to expect that diplomacy be the preferred avenue for progress, and it reasonable to expect the PM, even if has zero ministerial experience, to be well-versed in that art.

  • Dev

    Erm … former colony, large Pakistani community in UK, also fighting a war against the Taliban, how does that work for you?

    Cameron did not lay down the law, he pissed off a key strategic ally of the UK to no discernible gain for Britain & thereby created a rod for his & the country’s back in the future.

    India does have a lot of problems – massive corruption, an insidious caste system, a burgeoning Hindu nationalist tendency whihc targets thesubstantial Muslim minority – but it has relatively free and fair elections every feew years, I don’t really think that makes it anymore of a functioning democracy than Pakistan to be honest, the two are mirror images of the other.

    That aside, it doesn’t detract from the fact that anyone with a bit of gumption, commonsense, diplomacy & intelligence could easily have raised the security concerns within & btwn India & Pakistan without deeply offending one side.

    How is it to Britain’s benefit that Pakistan are extremely pissed off unnecesssarily so?