The problem of communicating DC to DC?

Matthew d’Ancona, a friend and admirer of the late Christopher Hitchens, reaches for one of the few times he had ever spoken on the subject of David Cameron:

“He seems content-free to me. Never had a job, except in PR, and it shows. People ask, ‘What do you think of him?’ My answer is: he doesn’t make me think.”

D’Ancona follows up by stating:

The biggest problem of perception facing this Government is that it is less than the sum of its parts; that it is efficiently committed to deficit reduction, holding its own in Europe, and trouncing Ed Miliband (see our ICM poll today for details), but that it lacks an overarching set of principles or a clear route map for the nation.

Hitchens was English born, Oxford educated but claimed his greatest fame after moving to the US. In Washington he lived and breathed at the physical intersection between big politics, wealthy think tanks and the diplomatic community.

He was part of an influential transatlantic elite whose opinion of the UK matters in the US, not least because so few of his fellow Americans have the time or the attention to spend on an ally that seems to decrease in reach and influence with each passing prime ministerial term.

The weightlessness that ‘Hitch’ attached to Cameron has been there from the beginning of his leadership. And has not always been a disadvantage. In a world were form and format are proving more and more protean and weightless (just ask Mr Junker for instance) the fault may lie more with the old world mores of the Poppinjay, than the Tory Prime Minister.

Note: the last paragraph added after this post was published.

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  • Manfarang

    Hichens remarks on David Cameron are just sour grapes.
    In his youth Hichens clearly had political ambitions but it was his lack of understanding of “the working class” that prevented him from making any real advancement in British politics.
    During his time as a leading member of the International Socialists, this group was boasting about its links to the Provisional IRA.

  • Ruarai

    Crikey – is d’Ancona spending too much time with Cameron the PR man; can he really believe that the problem is one of perception rather than substance?

    It’s perfectly obvious not only that this government has no Grand Strategy in foreign policy but that its current marginilazation and rapidly atrophying relevance on all of the critical global issues is a direct consequnece of that. Even the Spectator was warning about this from the beginning of Cameron’s time: Shape the world or be shaped by it.

    Conversations I’ve had in DC suggest no little frustration with Cameron’s retreat from the world – as an ally shrinks in import, that’s one less leverage point in the world for the US. It’s also clear that the Germans are frustrated for similar reasons, a nutered Britain makes French ambition harder to balance. On issue after issue Cameron’s Britain is facing options it hasn’t shaped and is reacting to each rather than reshaping any. It’s amature hour stuff at a time when the real thing is desperately needed not only by Britain but by her partners.

    Jonathan Powell’s deconstruction of the lack of strategic thinking is worth a read:

    Anyone who really thinks there’s a perception problem unrelated to the lack of substance (except of course Cameron, who presumably spends more time talking and thinking about perception than anything else) should answer: What is the Cameron Doctraine?

  • Rory Carr

    While Hitchens, along with his more talented friend, James Fenton, was a member of the International Socialists, I doubt that even he would ever have claimed that he was “a leading member” which he was not. He was a rank and file member and not for very long.

    Nor did this group ever boast about “its links to the Provisional IRA”. Which is probably just as well since it had no such links.

    Manfarang, if he is an age contemporaneous with such events, may be confusing the sloganising of this group with its rival organisation, the International Marxist (IMG) whose weekly paper in the early 70’s once carried a front page with the iconic photograph of Official IRA volunteer, Joe MCann, kneeling, an automatic weapon raised, against a backdrop of a burning building, with a banner headline proclaiming:
    ” Victory to the IRA !” . The choice of the McCann imagery may have been awkward since the IMG, influenced largely by former Republican activist, Gery Lawless, were more supportive of the Provos (in critical solidarity with, was the term I recall) than the Officials whom they regarded as Stalinist, while they saw the actions of the Provos as fitting more into line with their own “transitional programme”.

  • It says here that I’ve been awarded the Black spot: how very RLS! Next up: …”that Black Dog again or a seafaring man with one leg, Jim–him above all.”

    I’d disagree with Manfarang that Hitchens had any real political ambitions. If this is adduced from Hitchen’s brief membership of the Labour Party, it is contradicted by his not-quite-so-brief adherence to IS. By the way, IS wasn’t so deplorable — some of them could actually think, and even write (neither characteristic common among Trots). Anyway, Hitchens and many others were tipped out of Labour because they couldn’t take the Wilson government playing footsie with LBJ over Vietnam: not a dishonourable position.

    I am touched by Rory Carr having some appreciation of the convolutions of far lefty stuff at that time. I thought that was a personal peculiarity, all my very own.

    I read d’Ancona’s piece as a two-parter, linked a trifle tenuously by the Hitchens memories:

    ✱ The valid dismissal of Cameron’s brandishing the King James Bible in the first place, and annexing it to the Government’s crusade against “the slow-motion moral collapse that has taken place in parts of our country these past few generations”


    ✱ The telling, if out-of-place (for the Torygraph, especially on Sunday), representation of Cameron’s government as Toryism-very-lite: it lacks an overarching set of principles or a clear route map for the nation.

    Finally, Mick Fealty missed the gem of a half-sentence: Hitchens was conspicuously uninterested in the PM and all his works, regarding him, it seemed, as one of the less engaging characters his beloved Bertie Wooster might have bumped into at the Drones.

  • Manfarang

    You are right. The links which some rank and file members of the International Socialist boasted of were probably non-existant which was just as well for their sakes. I regarded it as an idle boast at the time. Remember this was just a tiny fringe group so someone such as Hitchens was fairly prominment.I threw out my copies of International Socialism long ago but I am sure Hitchens was indeed a contributor.
    With the passing of The Great Leader,.anyone got any of those super dollars?

  • Manfarang

    That should be ‘prominent’, what with all this sad news!
    IS came before IMG of course with some IS people joining it.

  • Rory Carr

    I must say that I am quite overcome myself that Malcolm Redfellow should find himself “touched by Rory Carr having some appreciation of the convolutions of far lefty stuff…” , though why he should consider such esoteric trivia exclusively his I cannot say as I seem to recall that the arena was quite crowded in those heady days and would not think that senile dementia has afflicted all but Malcolm Redfellow.

  • Alas, Rory Carr @ 12:36 pm, I felt lonely then — in Dream an Lucht Oibre (ah! Clause XI: how we loved thee!) and then in the UK Labour Party (ditto Clause 4), when others found such cosy intellectual homes. I felt lonely in between — out of the Labour Party, unable to stomach the Blairite cult-of-personality. I feel lonely now, having voted for Ed Miliband, in hope for better things.

    So perhaps the dementia wasn’t just an acquired senile affliction.

    Alternatively, it’s always easier to know what one scorns — and Hitch’s targets were generally deserving ones.

    Meanwhile, it’s still there:

    “But what is the black spot, captain?” I asked.
    “That’s a summons, mate. I’ll tell you if they get that. But you keep your weather-eye open, Jim, and I’ll share with you equals, upon my honour.”

  • Mick Fealty

    God forbid we should actually talk about the subject in hand! new thread up which is slightly related.

    [Malcolm, you didnt? Did you? What on earth were you thinking? Or weren’t you?]

  • Manfarang

    The sixties-those were the days!