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Back on holiday, is Cameron squandering the opportunity to relaunch his premiership?

By Tim Montgomerie
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I don't know the answer to this question but I fear the answer might be 'yes'. In last week's Sunday Telegraph I argued that the riots represented Cameron's moment - a moment to relaunch his premiership - a relaunch rooted in his mission to fix Britain's broken society. He should, I argued, delegate economic policy to George Osborne and focus on the cause that has always energised him; social renewal. But where's the fizz, the energy, the boldness, the sense of urgency? If he rose to the immediate challenge of quelling the riots he hasn't produced anything notable or memorable since and he's now back on holiday; his fifth break of 2011, according to the Daily Mail. While everybody needs a holiday, is this the right time?


I'm not the only one who's worried. James Forsyth writes the cover feature for this week's Spectator:

"Has Cameron got what it takes to seize the day? He has just these few short weeks in the aftermath of the riots to push through the necessary reforms, with the country behind him. But does he have the gumption? Worringly, Cameron’s response so far has consisted more of words than action. And every day of inaction is a day on which the forces opposed to his agenda gather strength...

If the Prime Minister doesn’t grasp this soon, he will be in danger of losing his social purpose almost as quickly as he regained it. There are already signs that Cameron may delay striking until the iron has cooled. There is talk of the policy response to the riots being unveiled at Tory party conference in October. This is too late. At the moment, Cameron holds the conch: he is the Prime Minister of a nation that is looking for answers. But by the Conservative party conference, he’ll just be the third party leader to have devoted his speech to talking about how best to deal with the problems revealed by those nights of looting back in August.

Voices of caution inside No. 10 are already warning against ‘fighting on too many fronts at once’. But as one exasperated reformer says, this has things backwards. This is a moment for ‘shock and awe’, for Cameron to announce a whole set of measures and dare his opponents to stand in his way. The longer that Cameron delays his policy solutions, the more the urgency will drain from the situation. Public opinion will begin to drift back to where it was before the riots and the opportunity for radical progress will have been wasted...

Cameron is still talking the language of reviews rather than action. The Liberal Democrats see that, and are confident that they can block this and the other great coalition social policy divide, family policy. They think that if they can hold out until Cameron goes off on holiday again later in the month without conceding anything big, politics will have returned to normal by the time he comes back."

Read the full piece at The Spectator (although it's behind their paywall). He hasn't, as Dan Hodges has blogged today, rebalanced his law and order agenda. He hasn't introduced the kind of early intervention programmes that are crucial to stopping the conveyor belt to crime. He hasn't set up a machine in Downing Street to see this through. I'm concerned.


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