David Cameron has a problem, he has no Willie Whitelaw:
Margaret Thatcher knew what a political leader needed to avoid the kind of foul-ups that bedevil the Coalition Government almost every week. âEvery prime minister needs a Willie,â she proclaimed.
Lady Thatcherâs Willie (Whitelaw) was charming, hospitable and delightfully dotty. Once, when a jobsworth tried to stop him walking on land designated as a site of special scientific interest âby the governmentâ, Willie protested grandly: âI am the government.â Visiting a prison workshop, he asked the inmates what they were doing. One was sewing mail bags. âVery good,â said Willie. âCarry on.â Another was painting signs. âExcellent,â said Willie. âCarry on.â A third told him: âIâm doing 20 years for manslaughter.â Willie did not miss a beat. âJolly good,â he cried. âCarry on.â
Yet behind the veneer of old bufferdom, Whitelaw was a shrewd and ruthless political operator. An expert in scenting trouble, he knew how to persuade, cajole or knock ministerial heads together to ensure that policies were clear and that everyone who mattered was signed up to them. David Cameronâs problem is that he has no Willie â and little prospect of finding one. As a result, his Government lacks coherence to an extent that is quite frightening and which guarantees further shambolic failures.
Willie Whitelaw was a top bloke, but this interesting story suggests some questions in New Zealand politics.
Who would be John Key’s version of Willie Whitelaw?
Is it Steven Joyce? Or perhaps Judith Collins, or even Tony Ryall?