Belfast Telegraph

Why Cameron is turning out to be same old Tory ...

By Gail Walker

There's an ugly mood in the air. There is the sound of tumbrils creaking down our lanes. For two years, we didn't really know what to make of David Cameron and his fag George Osborne.

We mustn't judge too harshly, we told ourselves. After all, we've gone beyond those class war reflexes of deciding what we thought of somebody by what school they went to and how plummy their accent is - in fact, it made quite a refreshing change from Blair era mockney.

And, to be fair, while George may have seemed a lost cause, Dave made the right gestures, had the right soundbites about being one of us - holidaying in Spain, rabbiting on about The Smiths and The Jam.

Of course, at the last election, we all knew the bottom line. David and George were probably at heart Hooray Henrys but if they (eventually) brought the good times they could feast on caviar sauteed in orphan's tears washed down by an agreeable bottle of hock until they decided they were bored with the inconvenience of running the country.

Who, honestly, would give a hoot?

A touch of Flashman-like public school arrogance seemed a small price to pay to get the country working again.

We thrilled to the old mantras of 'no pain, no gain', and 'a short sharp shock', along with a few new ones like 'austerity budgets' and 'a long hard road'...

But two years down that road, many think D-amp;G don't know what they're talking about. Far from recovering, the economy has gone into reverse.

We all looked forward to a modest revival in house prices to silence all that worrying talk about negative equity.

Alas, if you can find one still in business, ask an estate agent to value your property and prepare for a few sleepless nights.

No wonder we're beginning to cast a cold eye on Cameron and Osborne.

The budget wasn't just a 'presentation' disaster.

Complete with tax cuts for the well off and picking on grannies' pensions (how's that for political genius?) - it confirmed the suspicions many had about their personalities.

Dave can witter on about enjoying Cornish pasties all he likes but we no longer believe him.

Add to that the saga of Tory donors and intimate dinners with the PM and Jeremy Hunt refusing to do the decent thing and suddenly we are sucked back into the Tory world of the Hamiltons and Alan B'astard.

The strange thing is just how few people - in the media, at the workplace - are prepared to stand up for them.

Margaret Thatcher generated a fanatical loyalty to keep true believers going through the darkest days. Even John Major had those, out of a sense of pity at least, who would stand up for him. Not this one though ... nobody wants to be associated with this Tory/Lib Dem hybrid.

Popular patience is running out. Instead of bafflement, or a gritting of teeth and preparing for the bitter medicine, people are reaching for words like Arrogant, Inept, Incompetent.

The old stereotypes about Eton boys are beginning to take root in the imagination and in everyday conversation.

Barbs which seemed like a throwback a couple of years ago are beginning to draw blood. While not irretrievable, opinion polls are showing a sudden widening of the gap between Labour and the Tories.

Of course, there is the mid-term slump which afflicts all governments - especially as local elections loom.

After two years of uncertainty, people are taking a very close look at Cameron and Osborne - and at the uncomfortable fit with the shaggy, flaky Lib Dems.

If, as many think, Nick's Mix gets a pasting in council chambers across the land and the Two Eds (Are Better Than None) Labour option picks up votes, Cameron may find himself tempted to go to the country properly to get the mandate he thinks he was owed from the beginning.

Once the Olympics and the Jubilee are out of the way, we should strap ourselves in for a bumpy ride.

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