Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Ali Miraj Business

Labour people will have been watching the Cameron-Miraj row with some astonishment. Ali who? will have been the first reaction of many. Ali Miraj appears to be a Tory councillor who had some hopes of being selected as a parliamentary candidate (unsuccessfuly to date). And he appears to have made some criticisms of the Tory leadership. So far so normal - isn't this normal sport among Tories?

So what on earth was Cameron doing attacking Miraj personally for his criticisms? Surely it was beneath his dignity to even respond. He should have refused to be drawn and left it to the party chairman (or some such enforcer) to have a quiet word. Instead he attacks the man personally, on the BBC no less, and in the process made Miraj and his criticisms important.

It's a sign of weakness. If Cameron can't take a bit of criticism from a mere councillor, he won't last five minutes in government, where you get absolutely pounded by the press and vested interests, and have to be able to withstand things without losing your cool.

Both Blair and Brown have taken tremendous flak in their time from both within the party and from outside. Brown has never responded to any of the personal attacks people made over the last few years. And Blair was a past master at taking flak on the chin. Matthew Parris has a telling anecdote in his autobiography where he runs into Blair at a restaurant after he'd written a particularly vitriolic article about him. And instead of Blair giving him the cold shoulder, he came up to him, said hello without any sign of rancour, and then went on to his guests, leaving Parris feeling guilty.

The only time in his 13 years as leader that Blair responded personally to criticism was last September, when Tom Watson and 6 others resigned from the government. Blair fired off a statement saying "I had been intending to dismiss him anyway". It was a childish expression of weakness, the reaction of a man whose back is to the wall and is hitting out without thinking. A day later, Blair conceded to his critics and gave them what they wanted - he announced he would be stepping down before the next conference.

1 comment:

Andrew Brown said...

Cameron's shown he's got a bit of a thin skin when it comes to the papers (registration required). And showing that sort of weakness is a red rag to a journo.

But stooping to try to squash a councillor... well there are a few in our party who wish they could gotten that sort of rise out of Blair.