Nick Cohen

Ukip’s puppet David Cameron cuts a pathetic figure

Ukip's puppet David Cameron cuts a pathetic figure
Text settings

Well this is a pleasant surprise. After all the years of indifference, David Cameron has condescended to notice us. Not just notice us but want us too. His come-hither smiles and fluttering eyelashes are enough to bring a blush to the cheek.

Faced with losing yet another by-election, the Prime Minister is telling  Labour and Liberal Democrat voters that they (we) should vote Conservative to stop Ukip in Rochester and – presumably – in every seat in Britain where Ukip is a contender come May.

OK, I can hear my friends and comrades asking: what’s the deal? What do we get in return for calming our heaving stomachs and handing Cameron our support?

Perhaps he will offer us an end to his class war from above. He might regret cutting taxes for the richest earners on £150k plus or saying that the best way he could imagine to make Britain a better place is to raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1,000,000.

I think I speak for us all when I say we’d sit up, pay attention then, and give him a hearing.

So what’s it to be? Yes? No? Come on, man, spit it out.

Perhaps not. OK, maybe he and the ridiculous Boris Johnson could stop condemning Labour and the Liberal Democrats for wanting to increase property taxes on fantastically expensive houses. Perhaps Cameron could say he too thinks it wrong that a Russian oligarch in a £15 million Mayfair mansion pays no more tax that a struggling couple who have mortgaged their life away to buy an unremarkable flat in a dowdy part of town.

Instead of expending all his sympathy on the tiny number of widows in £2 million plus homes, who may not be able to afford more tax but can, nevertheless, sell up, release space to a family which can use it more efficiently, and pocket a vast, unearned and untaxed capital gain, Cameron might worry about the housing of the less fortunate. He might do something for the working families thrown out of their homes because they cannot cope with the bedroom tax.

Failing that, couldn’t he at least express concern about the lives Richard Benyon, the Conservative MP for Newark and junior minister for something or other in Cameron’s own government, is wrecking? As my marvellous Guardian colleague Aditya Chakrabortty showed yesterday, Benyon is driving poor families from a London estate while living the life of a high-class scrounger and pocketing £2,000,000 or so in taxpayers' money each year.

Now I come to think of it, if Cameron wants our votes, he should chuck Benyon out of the Tory Party. Go on, prime minster, show you’re serious for once and withdraw the whip. You are losing so many MPs to Ukip, why not lose one in a good cause for a change? While you are at it sack Chris Grayling, Iain Duncan Smith or one of your other know-nothing thugs just to show good faith.

Do we have a deal?


How about immigration, then. I accept that Ukip support is driven by fear of foreigners accept that many Labour voters share it. But couldn’t Cameron at least  show that his time at Eton was not entirely wasted and respect correct form? He might persuade those of us who worry about how racism has moved from the extreme right to the mainstream if he had the good manners to acknowledge that not all immigrants are scroungers, and most are hard-working taxpayers businesses and public services cannot do without.

While he’s at it, and since we are getting down to business here, why not offer to abandon his plans to repeal the Human Rights Act and diminish our freedoms, or break his craven silence and tell us whether he wants Britain to stay in Europe or not? Cameron, the poor thing, lives in a Tory Narnia where everyone assumes that the British want to leave. Not so. Support for our membership of the EU is at a 23-year high. I don’t doubt that most people would welcome the repatriation of powers from Brussels, but we would like to be reassured that Cameron is not threatening our jobs and what prosperity we have by taking us out.

How about it? What's your answer?

Answer comes there none, for the truth is Cameron cannot answer, and cannot make an offer to centrist let alone left wing voters. He is the prisoner of the British right: a pathetic figure and desperate man, who once knew that the Conservatives had to move to centre, but lacked the will and the strength to do it. He had a choice between sticking on the centre ground or appeasing the right and far right and made the wrong decision.

Cameron won’t move to make Britain fairer, or to help those who are being squeezed half to death in the housing and rental markets, or to combat racism, or to defend basic freedoms, or to reach a compromise in Europe because he is the plaything of Ukip and his own backbenchers: the most humiliated prime minister of my lifetime.

As Alex Massie of the Spectator wrote the other day his slogan comes down to the cry: UKIP ARE RIGHT. DON’T VOTE FOR THEM.

Because he dare not take on right-wingers, he panders to them and forgets about the broad mass of centrist voters who like our politicians moderate and our politics sensible. All of which puts him at a disadvantage when he asks us to vote Conservative to stop Ukip. In what sense is his Conservative Party “the lesser of two evils”? He tells Labour voters to lend him their support because:

'I think there will be lots of Labour supporters in Rochester and Strood who don’t want to see Ukip with their divisiveness and their message succeed here.'

They may well reply that Cameron in his cowardice has become just as divisive as Farage. Admittedly he is not such an eager and voluble extremist, but the fact remains at every stage Cameron has collapsed before Ukip’s advances. He has never found the integrity to stand up and fight for what he believes in - presumably, because he believes in nothing apart from clinging on to office.

I can’t speak for others on the centre-left, but speaking for myself I can think of no good reason to keep him there.