Cameron’s Coup by Polly Toynbee and David Walker (Guardian/Faber, £9.99)
Where did he go, that hoodie-hugging rascal of a Tory leader who scrambled into Number 10 five years ago, promising modernisation and the greenest government ever? According to Polly Toynbee and David Walker, he was never really there. Cameron’s Coup assesses what five years of David Cameron and his government have done to Britain. Structured as a policy audit, outlining the impact of a sometimes remarkably transformative administration, the book is in reality a clench-fisted polemic against a man presented as a secret small-state ideologue. It’s initially enjoyable but ultimately a little exhausting.
On a micro level, the book racks up the failings of Cameron and his colleagues, explaining the impact their policies have had on society’s weakest. It does this with varied success. At its best it is forensic and vicious, with Iain Duncan Smith and his “problem with arithmetic” coming in for the most decisive drubbing. In broader terms, it argues there is an unusually large gulf between Cameron’s “broad ideological aims”—shrinking the state, fuelling the markets—and “sloppiness in execution.” It is harder to make this charge stick. The prime minister is hardly unique among world leaders for mixing his ideals with opportunism, error and the odd change of heart.
It is difficult to see who this book is aimed at. It is too unbalanced to convince wavering centrists, and free from much discussion of alternatives. But for sheer white rage it’s hard to beat. “He trod the world stage as prime ministers do,” write Toynbee and Walker of Cameron, “but without any identifiable strategy, sense of history or grasp of long-run national interest.” Ouch.