THE BLOG
26/03/2015 07:46 GMT | Updated 25/05/2015 06:59 BST

We Are the Fools, not Candid Cameron

Who wants a leader who, when asked a straight question, refuses to answer it?

It appears some parochial inhabitants of Westminster would have preferred Britain's Prime Minister, when asked whether he would stand for a third term in office when he has yet to complete his first, to obfuscate or fib. Better for a PM to pretend his passion for power knows no end date.

He should at least have been prepared for the question, insisted the PRs wheeled out to underscore Cameron's admission, forgetting our disdain for spin, and allergy to increasingly polished answers to questions that reveal only how well the interviewee has responded to media training.

Happily it is voters, not political village gossips, who will decide in May whether David Cameron's tenure in Downing Street will extend even to a second term.

The stunned response to, 'a third term is something I am not contemplating' revealed more about our relationship with power than David Cameron's. He has signalled weakness, a lack of ambition, a loss of appetite for accountability, we conclude. He doesn't want to be in charge for another ten years. The man must be a loser. Really?

What happened to our demand for authentic leaders? Knowing yourself, what you want and, just as important, what you do not, is the signature strength of leadership. Here, it appears, is a leader with balance in his life, unburdened by a massive ego, not susceptible to the pathology of power and willing to call time on the top job. Not so long ago Ed Milliband stood accused of coveting power at all costs, his ambition knowing no bounds, his own dagger planted in brother David's back - how dare he do that in an open leadership contest? Now David Cameron stands in the court of political opinion, answering the charge that he craves power too little. Which is it to be?

If Cameron were in business, shareholders, peers and employees would be applauding his willingness to advertise his intentions. Far from being the fool for showing his hand, he would be thanked for his clarity. 10 years is surely enough of an opportunity to learn the job, bring your freshest ideas to bear, get as much done that matters and clear out of the way before you become tired, repetitive, or worse, dangerous. Linger too long in the limelight and like Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, Kevin Pietersen or Jeremy Clarkson, you lose you sense of place in the world. Armed with their leader's transparency of ambition, The Board could plan succession smoothly, review the relative performances of potential successors, and keep an eye on the shifting context over the CEO's remaining tenure. His potential successors would know where they stand, able to use their leader's timetable to shape their own, and to use that time to demonstrate peak performance, the most reliable of credentials to take into a succession race, a fact not lost on George Osborne, Teresa May and Boris Johnson, nor on those not name-checked by Cameron in his TV interview.

The political jungle operates differently, we are assured. These three - and others lurking in the shadows - will start plotting their path to the top. By opening the door, so the narrative runs, Cameron has given his potential successors an open invitation to race him to the exit. He has shown himself to be as stupid or as weak as Tony Blair when he showed a chink of vulnerability to his Chancellor. The situational context could not be more different: George Osborne has been given autonomy, and Cameron has not hoovered up the credit for the economic recovery. Osborne not brooding next door over a promise allegedly broken,

A more reliable commentator, Niccolò Machiavelli, would argue that Cameron's candour with his ministers will be rewarded with reciprocity:

'When ministers and princes are related in this way, they can trust each other. When they are otherwise, the outcome will always be harmful either for one or the other.'

There is much more mischief when the leader's intention is unclear.

So how will the political history books record this interview? Another example of clumsy David Cameron's laid back approach to leadership? A stupid gaffe about a third term that cost him a second? Or a stroke of sincerity and self-awareness, a candid-to-camera Cameron whose lack of appetite for power at all costs and for as long as possible became the defining difference between him and rival Milliband?