Cameron wrong even if he’s right (again)

First published on 11 Feb 2011 -

This is a telephone conversation I did not have with David Cameron last week. I don’t know how he found my number. Is there no privacy these days?

DC: ‘I’ve decided to have a go at multiculturalism. What do you reckon?’

Me: ‘What with all that’s going on in Cairo right now?’

DC: ‘Don’t worry about Cairo. I’ll be in Munich. It’s the right time and place’

Me: ‘What are you going to say?’

DC: ‘I’m going to say: “We have failed to provide a vision of society [to young Muslims] to which they feel they want to belong. We have even tolerated segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values. All this leaves some young Muslims feeling rootless. And the search for something to belong to and believe in can lead them to extremist ideology”.’

Me: ‘Don’t you think this will upset some people?’

DC: ‘Well, bad luck if it does. It is what I believe and it is what I am going to say.’

Me: ‘Have you done any research?’

DC: ‘No. Why?’

Me: ‘Because if you research the issue, particularly among the ethnic minorities you are referring to, you will have more chance of fulfilling your objective.’

DC: ‘How’s that?’

Me: ‘Because you will be able to reflect back to these people the views that the majority of them have expressed to you. This will show them you are on their side and that you care.’

DC: ‘What if the majority don’t agree with me?’

Me: ‘Keep your mouth shut!’

DC: ‘What are you proposing?’

Me: ‘Three things. You appoint an independent research company to conduct the biggest quantitative survey among ethnic minorities ever seen in this country. Then you get another independent research company to conduct a significant qualitative study of at least 24 focus groups, with at least four groups in each of six regions……’

DC: ‘Blimey, what’s that going to cost?

Me: ‘A lot less than this thing rebounding on you.’

DC: ‘What am I going to ask them?’

Me: ‘You explore their views on all the values you want to espouse: human rights, including for women and people of other faiths; equality of all before the law; democracy and the right of people to elect their own government; integration.’

DC: ‘What’s the third thing?’

Me: ‘You get well-known and respected opinion formers from various racial and religious groups to support the values you want to reinforce. Their voices will be more influential than yours.’   

DC: ‘But I’m the Prime Minister’.

Me: ‘Exactly. That means you can do all these things. No problem’.

DC: ‘But why should I bother?’

Me: ‘I have told you. Your message will be more effective.’

DC: ‘But politics doesn’t work like this. I’m the Prime Minister. I decide these things.’

Me: ‘Yes, but you have to SELL your thinking and your ideas to the people and this is how you do it.’

DC: ‘It all seems a bit of a fuss to me. I’ll make a speech and see what happens.’

Me: ‘Yes, Prime Minister.’

About Hugh Salmon

Business leader. Adman. Writer.
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