Daniel Korski

What can Cameron learn from Obama’s situation?

What can Cameron learn from Obama's situation?
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President Obama was going to be different. He was going to learn from Jimmy Carter's failures. He was going to avoid Bill Clinton’s fate. Like his well-run campaign, Obama's tenure in the White House was going to be cool, calm and effective.

If Clinton failed by sending an over-cooked healthcare reform to Congress, Obama would succeed by leaving the details to lawmakers. If McCain's campaign was psychodrama, Obama's administration was going to be all collegiality.   

It did not work out that way and now the knives are out for Obama's team. First there was Ed Luce's piece in the Financial Times. Now Leslie H. Gelb, a veteran DC insider, comes out and says it: the President must change key personnel now. In the Daily Beast, he writes:

'Unless he speedily sets up a new team, he will be reduced to a speechmaker. It’s mostly a matter of relocating the Chicago and campaign crowd who surround the Oval Office and inserting people with proven records of getting things done in Washington and the world.' 

This is not a unique problem for Obama, of course. Many former US presidents have faced the same problem.

But what are the lessons for David Cameron, now that his team have moved to CCHQ and look poised to move again in a few weeks time? That those who help you win elections may not ultimately be suited for government. That political point-scoring must not crowd out sound policy. That doing too much at any one time risks all the government's priorities. That great speeches are important but have a political shelf-life and are no substitute for policy follow-through.

It is not too late for Obama to change, or Cameron for to learn from the mistakes of his American friend, should he also have to move from campaigning to governing.