Tom Richmond: Rattled Cameron in line for a rude awakening over insults

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LIKE it or not, fruity and risqué language is now common parlance in everyday language in contrast to the deference and politeness that characterised previous generations when Britons were more respectful towards others.

But I’m shocked at how David Cameron is becoming increasingly rude when it comes to the denigration of his political opponents – evidence, I believe, that he is struggling to stay calm under pressure in contrast to, say, Margaret Thatcher, John Major or even Tony Blair.

First, there was Cameron’s depiction of Ed Miliband as “a conman” after the Labour leader and Doncaster North MP seized the political initiative with his proposed freeze on energy prices. Irrespective of the scheme’s effectiveness, and I am among the sceptics, this intervention shed much- needed light on the cost of living crisis facing so many families across Yorkshire.

Next there was a Downing Street briefing about rising energy bills which attributed this remark to the Tory leader: “We have got to get rid of all this green crap.”

Tory strategists may think that such posturing is clever and will appeal to Sun readers, the source of this story, but more astute political observers will remember the husky-loving PM promising to preside over “the greenest government ever” – and personally visiting the Department of Energy and Climate Change to say so. How times change.

And then a perfectly reasonable, but sceptical question about the UK’s recent record on business investment, posed by former Labour minister Michael Meacher at Prime Minister’s Questions, received this undignified response: “I can only conclude that the right hon. Gentleman, too, has been on a night out on the town with Rev Flowers and that the mind-altering substances have taken effect. The fact is that in the first six months of this year, Britain has received more inward investment than any other country anywhere in the world.”

The Rev Flowers is, of course, the now disgraced Co-op boss Paul Flowers whose private life has unravelled faster than the bank’s finances, but there was absolutely no justification for the innuendo in Cameron’s response.

The so-called “Bullingdon Boys” on the Tory front bench, including George Osborne, may have found it funny, but the PM’s subsequent climbdown lacked sincerity when he said: “I made a light-hearted remark – if it caused any offence, I will happily withdraw it. I think it is very important that we can have a little bit of light-hearted banter, and a sense of humour on all sides.”

Light-hearted banter? Humour? I’m not laughing. Are you? No, I thought not. But the confluence of these interventions does prompt one to conclude that David Cameron is rattled – not a good trait for any political leader – when his responses border on the personal and insulting rather than the substance of the debate.

No wonder Tory strategists do not want Cameron to go head to head with the likes of the SNP’s Alex Salmond and Ukip’s Nigel Farage in various election debates – they, too, have doubts about his ability to remain calm under pressure, one of the most important skills of any Prime Minister.

LORD Stevens, the former Met commissioner, speaks with authority when it comes to the importance of neighbourhood policing.

This approach transformed crime-fighting in London on his watch, and he is now recommending Labour strengthen their emphasis on local policing ahead of the next election.

Stevens has a willing accomplice in West Yorkshire MP Yvette Cooper – the Shadow Home Secretary is already using his report to portray Labour as the party of law and order, in contrast to the cuts that are being implemented by the Home Office, even though Theresa May has managed to cut both crime – and costs – simultaneously.

Yet, if Labour are to increase community patrols, how will this be funded? And what about the growing proliferation of internet-related crime that can be solved only by computer experts rather than the old-fashioned beat bobby typified by Dixon of Dock Green and Heartbeat?

This type of intervention reminds me of another policing fad from the New Labour years – PCSOs. They were launched by Tony Blair and David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary, 
with great fanfare and financial promises.

There was just one catch – there was no clarity on the long-term funding and it was left to individual forces and councils to pick up the bill. I fear history is repeating itself.

MICHAEL Gove has criticised Ed Miliband for his “coquettish reticence” in dealing with the scandals that have hit the Labour Party.

So? What about the Tories remaining in the pocket of a handful of donors who are perceived, rightly or wrongly, as being over-influential?

I’d be more inclined to agree with Gove about Labour’s hypocrisy if he was prepared to show some humility over the recruitment of unqualified teaching staff to his new generation of free schools and academies that remain outside the auspices of LEA control.

After all, it is a national scandal that a failing school in Leeds can be allowed to recruit staff with just four GCSEs, and no experience of teaching, to take maths lessons.

It’s a short-sighted approach to policy that simply does not add up.

PERHAPS people will be more willing to support their local high street now they realise that there is a clear link between shops and house prices.

A recent survey said those high streets populated with independent businesses have added an average of £40,000 – a not insignificant sum – to nearby property prices over the past decade.

It cited the example of Yarm in North Yorkshire as an area that can expect to flourish. And Boroughbridge will not be far behind after its local council bought land to enable visitors and shoppers to park for free.

Let’s hope other market towns and high streets are similarly enlightened – and that they receive the support that is critical to them surviving the triple threat posed by those supermarkets that sell everything, out-of-town shopping malls and internet sales.

TEN days on from being named the 2017 City of Culture, and my acquaintances in Hull cannot take the smile off their faces. They truly believe that this is the dawn that will awaken the sleeping giant from its slumber.

Yet, after years – even decades – of political in-fighting and introspection, why is the city finally realising its potential with a new-found spirit of unity between council, civic and business leaders?

In many cases, the answer given to me has amounted to no more than two words – John Prescott.

The simple reason is that the pugnacious Prescott, so long the face of the Hull and with a temper as big as the Humber on many an occasion, is no longer Deputy Prime Minister and in a position to influence the city’s destiny.

They believe that the sea change came about when Prescott stepped aside as Hull North’s MP in 2010 and, in doing so, provided an opportunity for new partnerships and alliances to form without the tribalism that for decades had dominated politics in the port city.