High Office can be very cruel to a man. Shakespeare has shown us something of what can happen. He presents a mighty figure new to his task. As you look, a small crack can be seen in the edifice and under the pressure of high office one can see it widen until suddenly it splits asunder.
Are we witnessing this coming apart already in David Cameron? I do not suppose Cameron will repeat the mistakes of seeking to curry favour with some countries by insulting their ‘enemies’ and neighbours in public. At least not in the exactly same way. We shall write that down to learning from experience and the influence of others. But he will continue to be himself and he has told us so. Many hundreds of thousands of people will have seen the complicated expressions on David Cameron’s face when qustioned by journalists on his recent gaffes in Turkey and India: puzzlement, obstinacy and a degree of stupidity. After all when he shouted crude insults at Gordon Brown (of beloved memory) across the floor of the House of Commons people laughed and cheered. There must have been many similar moments in the Eton and Oxford debating societies: no one objected there. So why do they object in Pakistan and Israel?
This whole business of exposing oneself in public is fraught with difficulty. At first the crowd is amused and taken-in by one’s idiosyncracies and there is a welcome in the novellty of it (sorry, Gordon) but then the mood changes as we quickly grow critical and bored with the constant exposure. We try to modify what we do. It makes things worse. Have you noticed a change in our Dave’s intonation? His speech pattern has been altered. He has always , of course, spoken very quickly, as a child speaks and as politicians do, in order to get his point in and evade critical questioning, but now he shouts. Quite suddenly in a speech he seems to take a breath and bellows. You think I exagerate? Listen and make up your own mind. Our Dave is weak on detail. Harriet Harmon has revealed this for us. In the Commons she has sought policy detail from Dave on numerous occasions. He doesn’t answer. He does not know. In a debating society it is not desperately important to know what you are talking about. Succeeding is a matter of style, wit and combativeness. Dave certainly has what it takes to be popular and thus successful there. But in a wider world where most of what occurs is not of your making and liking. It is a question mark. Will we see the public edifice crumble piece by piece over the coming months?