The newspapers have filled many of their column inches this morning with purrgate. The failure yet again of the Prime Minister to remember he was mic’ed up whilst having a private conversation. This time he was speaking to the retired Mayor of New York and Business man Michael Bloomberg on his trip to the USA. It is clearly embarrassing for the Prime Minister personally and the Government that their leader was recorded making comments about the head of state in such feline terms. His decision to apologise to the Queen is an important part of this story and it is no doubt important that our papers and broadcasters are reporting this reparation. However the story has more implications than this rather appalling breach of protocol, as much damage as it will have done.
It is understandable that a senior Minister would be happy to speak to Mr Bloomberg, someone who was very successful as a Politician and who runs a number of successful businesses. These two factors combined make him a person of significance, and Prime Ministers are meant to act as our Ambassador of the first order. However because of that his conversation of choice is something that should be of interest to all of us. All Ambassadors must engage in small talk and generally speaking the nature of their speech may not be something that will change the nature of the relationship between the two countries or our country and their area of influence. The Papers are already full of his comments regarding the monarch, rather belittling the relationship between the Government and Monarch. This was not in the context of a Cabinet Office meeting where he was with friends. If Michael Bloomberg is important enough to spend time with, then washing Royal linen in front of him is really not appropriate. However in my view this is not the worst element of this tale.
The acknowledgment that the Referendum vote was closer than ‘it should have been’ is something that speaks of Mr Camerons view of democracy, that votes are something to be controlled and predicted, rather than a way of measuring our views in a way that will direct his actions. This may go well in a nation that spends $Bns on trying to get voters to do as the well resourced Politicians want them to, but here what the people want is supposed to be pre-eminent. Of course there is another way of looking at this. Many of us believe that had the Westminster ‘elite’ played a great deal more attention to what the Scots actually want, that the Politicians would have been on the winning side with a huge margin. However as we know they messed up big time. So here we have our Prime Minister, talking to a significant retired Politician essentially acknowledging how badly he and his Government have handled the Scottish Independence policy. A bit like an Alcoholic explaining that he should not have agreed to that first drink.
The second element (or third) is what Mr Cameron should have been talking about. This after all was not a private discussion between old friends in private. It may not have been meant to have been quite so public, but this was like a Police Officer or School Teacher in the middle of their working day. The decision by Mr Cameron to speak to this particular Business man and retired Politician was surely not the same as men who go out for a game of golf and talk about things that they would not say at work. Mr Cameron was on duty. His small talk should have been building towards the objectives of his meeting. We are denied the knowledge of this objective, but surely he did have one? Perhaps Mr Cameron could apologise to all of us, particularly the Scottish people!