So it seems Dave isn’t going to apologise for his comments about Pakistan promoting ‘the export of terror’ and “looking both ways”. Considering he is meeting with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari later this week, this is diplomatic and PR hardball.
The controversial comments came just days after similarly choice words regarding Israel, when he described Gaza as a “prison camp”. So, is Cameron’s latest hardline stance a PR gaff or a carefully considered manoeuvre to get on side with India and bolster another new “special relationship”. Is alienating Pakistan and the UK community of people of Pakistani origin worth it? The response in Karachi has seen people burning effigies of Cameron in the street.
Firstly, let’s not forget that whilst Cameron has promised to cease the politics of spin, he is himself a former PR man. He isn’t quite Mandelson but therein lies his skill – he doesn’t seem like Mandelson – this doesn’t mean he lacks the cunning.
If this truly is his stance, he is to be admired, to an extent, for sticking to it but he may regret the rhetoric when the Pakistan President, Asif Ali Zardari, visits these shores later in the week to “educate” him.
It will also be an interesting visit for Zardari, who is under pressure to cancel the visit in order to attend to more pressing issues in his homeland following the terrible floods that have claimed over 1000 victims already. That visit may well have been cancelled if Cameron hadn’t made his very public statements but now it seems a diplomatic storm is brewing and it is tricky for either side to back down.
The situation means that the press in particular will be looking for chinks in either man’s stance, particularly the UK broadsheets, as the tabloids will be lapping this up. Perhaps Cameron has captured the mood of the many and this will earn him some serious kudos but this is a huge risk when you are the Prime Minister. The Leader of the Opposition can get away with such gestures as there is less fallout, as PM, Cameron may have to dilute his messages, whatever the perceived reward.
The Press For Attention Prescription
The cat is out of the bag and what Cameron cannot afford to do now is back down too much. That would portray him as weak and he is keen to build a reputation as a no-nonsense PM. He may need to choose his words more carefully later this week as the President visits and seek to downplay the controversy but personally, I don’t think he will backtrack too much.