Cameron seeks to cure the flu by banning sneezing

Every now and then I’m tempted to be impressed by David Cameron. And let’s face it – the man has achieved quite a bit. He’s transformed the Tory party from an unelectable object of national derision into our pretty much taken-for-granted government in waiting. But then he always manages to come up with something that disappoints, that misses the mark, and that shows him to lack that grit and courage that successful politicians require.

Take his speech yesterday on health and safety (rather neatly following on from my previous post). In it, Cameron makes the case that excessive health and safety is crippling society. Hardly a brave thing to say, given that the papers are filled to bursting with ‘elf-and-safety horror stories. And not everything Cameron says is wrong. He makes a sensible case for making people responsible for their own action and not preventing common sense things from happening because of over-cautious regulations.

But he blatantly fails to tackle the real problems. He lists a marvellous tabloid array of examples of health-and-safety stupidity – goggles for playing conkers, no scissors for trainee hairdressers – all of which have a tenuous relationship at best with actual health-and-safety rules.

What he totally fails to address are the really knotty issues, such as the recent furore over criminal checks for volunteers working with children.

And most fundamentally, he fails to recognise the cause of so much over-caution. He blames the easy targets of the EU and the Labour government. Fair enough. But will he have the courage to stand up to the bereaved mother, desperate that the terrible accident that befell her child should never happen again? Will he resist the pressure to tighten regulation in the clamour for ‘something to be done’ when a child is abused and murdered?

Cameron tackles the symptoms, but not the causes. Excessive regulation is not the cause, it is the symptom. A symptom of a society which constantly demands action after each tragedy, and of politicians who do not have the courage to say ‘I will do precisely nothing about this’.

It is easy to mock excessive regulation. For more difficult is to challenge the desires of the bereaved, the maimed and the bankrupted. Cameron has shown himself happy to mock. He has also shown himself unwilling to challenge. For me, he fails the test.


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