So, Cameron's denounced Policy Exchange's report on the irredeemable northern cities as 'insane'.
Now why would he do that, I wonder? It surely couldn't be an absolutely shameless attempt to butter up any marginal constituencies in those areas (of which, it must be said, there are not exactly a lot) and thereby try and alter the image of the Conservatives as having victimised the north over a sustained period of time. Could it? I'm looking at you, by the way, Boris. The last - utterly patronising -attempt to redress this attitude that I recall (without Googling) was William Hague* and his ostentatiously ludicrous drinking claims (the ones that would have made him a teenage alcoholic if they'd been true.)
Anyway, it's all a bit 'night of the long knives', isn't it. Cameron's big buddies at PE become personae non gratae on a count of of-its-moment expediency. As far as I can see it - and defending right-wing policy advisory groups is not exactly the name of my game - PE were only doing what they thought was their job, even if they do seem to have delegated the 'summary of findings' report to the work experience kid.** The report might have been both grossly insensitive, lazy and impractical, but PE probably thought they'd kicked ass and come up with a hard-hitting, radical solution:
PE: 'Well, thankyou for attending our northern regeneration conference, which we're holding in the south midlands, which makes it look as if we're meeting you halfway, but seeing as our transport links are about sixteen times better than yours, took us an hour while it took you six. Apart from you, Steve Cram, who came on foot from Sunderland and thus arrived more promptly than the Grand Central rail service.*** Now, you might not like what we have to tell you, but it's hard-hitting and radical. We had top brains working on this project (work experience boy smothered by the ex-Met officers TPE have hired as security.) Now, what we've come up with is this...'
(Projector creaks from ceiling)
Audience: (Silence. Unsettling stares.)
David Cameron (Arriving late, propping his bike against the wall)
It sounds horribly like the episode of Peep Show where Mark has to give a paper to a board meeting in Kettering and tells them that their plans are hopelessly wrong and ineffective because he's lost the plot...
* A patron of several curry establishments in my place of origin, which (being agricultural and, particularly in the eastern half of the constituency where the Tees commuter belt lies, relatively well-heeled) is one of the few blue blips on a political map of the north. I'd say that the fact that all the Indian restaurants in the area have photos of him behind their tills was political opportunism on his part, but he's so frequently witnessed digging into a chicken jalfrezi that one has to admit that he just really, really loves curry...
** I can see him now, sitting in his Kevin and Perry-esque sticky sock strewn bedroom with a pencil in his mouth and two box files full of questionnaires and pie charts in front of him. 'Hmmm...this has to be in tomorrow. I know, I'll just tell the entire population of the Mersey and Wear conurbations to migrate to Cirencester. That'll work, just like when the Simpsons left Springfield so Homer could go and work for Hank Scorpio.'
*** Can you get canned laughter on a blog?