Ever since he hired Andy Coulson we’ve known that Cameron’s judgement is seriously flawed. Events last week confirmed that, as this excellent New Statesman piece by Medhi Hasan points out.
What, I wonder, was the defining image of the past week? A terrified woman jumping out of a burning building? A 140-year-old furniture shop in Croydon that managed to survive the Blitz, engulfed in flames? An injured, bleeding teenager having his rucksack emptied by a passing group of feral youths?
Or was it, perhaps, a tanned and smiling David Cameron, arm around an Italian waitress, Francesca Ariani, at the Dolcenero café in Montevarchi? Our holidaying PM, who had earlier provoked headlines by failing to leave Ariani a tip, had gone back to the Tuscan café to make amends, with photographers in tow.
Purely in PR terms, it was a bizarre decision by the man who was once head of corporate communications for Carlton Television. Back home, as violence and looting erupted in Britain's cities, the photograph, published in newspapers on 7 August, served to remind the public that their Prime Minister was abroad, on a £6,000-a-week holiday, with no plans to come back and take charge.
As late as 6.30pm on the evening of Monday 8, a full 48 hours into the riots, Downing Street was adamant that there was no need for the Prime Minister to return home early from Italy…
Note the PR-flackery of the return to the cafe “to make amends” with photographer in tow. New Labour couldn’t have done it any better.