Late last night (Tuesday), this writer was surprised to read a tweet from arch-Tory Andrew Neil, asking, “Does anybody feel that wheels are falling off Tory campaign?”
Perhaps Mr Neil had seen David Cameron’s performance at an Age UK meeting yesterday, where pensioners – widely believed to be the Conservative Party’s most loyal and likely supporters – did everything but climb onto the stage and physically rip the comedy prime minister apart.
If they are representative of all the UK’s senior citizens, then yes – not only have the wheels fallen off Cameron’s cart but the horse has bolted.
Arriving late, Cameron explained himself by saying he had just taken his 175th cabinet meeting. This display of pride at his longevity in-post impressed nobody – let’s face it, the man was facing a crowd whose defining feature is longevity. Perhaps Cameron himself was impressed by his (non-)achievement. If so, one has to wonder why; one of his first acts as prime minister was to fix the length of the current Parliament.
It was at the questions that he really fell to pieces. The first was about his diabolical treatment of the National Health Service – on which many elderly people must rely, of course. Why was it falling apart? Cameron’s claim that there was an army of carers, plus more doctors* and nurses, was met with a succinct reply from several areas: “Rubbish!”
“The NHS needs more money,” shouted a member of the audience, while another shouted: “You promised free prescriptions… we want the NHS how it used to be.”
Following on from this, Cameron tried to tell these experts on the subject that his government had protected health and social care budgets. Big mistake – as some pointed out loudly: “The social care budget has been slashed.”
Here’s The Guardian‘s coverage of the next question: “‘I am 91 …’ Dave began to applaud enthusiastically, remembering that a good TV chat show host always likes to give an old person a clap for having stayed alive so long. He quickly stopped once he realised no one else had joined in and started stroking his chin instead. In that moment, no one had ever cared more or listened harder than Dave.”
Moving on, Cameron told the tough crowd he would not have a Cabinet member responsible for the elderly: “I don’t want you to blame other people. I want you to blame me.” The response? “We are. We do.”
“It’s a dream come true that I am able to ask you a question,” said a member of the audience. “Then you’ve got very low standards!” was the instant response from the others.
Challenged on his arrogant suggestion that he would not serve a third term (when he hasn’t even won a second and only got into his first by the back door), Cameron began, “What I did in my kitchen…” and was drowned out by the laughter of people who have lived long enough to have done the kinds of things in their kitchens that only feature in Cameron’s buddy George Osborne’s dreams.
“Some people have said I have been too generous to old people.” – “Not us.”
“I hope I can count on your support for a future Conservative government.” – “Not a chance.”
*It takes seven years to train a doctor; any new arrivals on wards during Cameron’s time as PM would have been initiated under the previous Labour government.
Afterwards, Asima Rentulla told ITV News: “The NHS is not protected. We rely on the NHS. The NHS is ours.”
And Graham Curtis said: “The social care budget is being slashed and slashed and slashed and the National Health Service is having to backfill what’s happening there… He was being very disingenuous.”
It was a situation that Cameron couldn’t control. The opinion polls might put his Tories close to Labour and the right-wing press might be praising him to the heavens, but there’s no way to hide the honest reaction of the public when they finally get a chance to confront the man who has caused so much unnecessary misery.
On this performance, Cameron’s days in politics – let alone in office – are numbered.
Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike
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