If you were to read a headline telling you that ‘Hillary Clinton’s Emails Deride Cameron’ you might expect to read a story about Clinton deriding Cameron. Instead, one of the national British newspapers on Monday had that headline, but went on to relate a story about someone most people have never heard of, writing some not particularly insightful emails about David Cameron to Hillary Clinton.
Apparently, according to the article, “US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s contempt for David Cameron before he became prime minister has been revealed in the release of her private emails.”
The problem with that sentence is that nowhere in the emails does there appear to be any contempt for Cameron expressed by Clinton.
An advisor to her, Sidney Blumenthal, expressed a few views on him, Hillary didn’t. You can read some of the emails here.
Blumenthal is unimpressed by Cameron, writing in 2009 that ” On foreign policy, Cameron is unsure, inexperienced, oblique, and largely uncommitted. So far his foreign policy is little more than projection of his domestic politics.” He is entitled to his opinion, however the reader of the newspaper is led to believe that Hillary shares these views.
In his advice to Clinton, Blumenthal predicted that “A Cameron government would be more aristocratic and even narrowly Etonian than any Conservative government in recent history, sharply contrasting especially with the striving and classless perspective of the grocer’s daughter, Margaret Thatcher”. Perhaps he was unaware of the likes of Douglas Hurd, Lord Hailsham, Douglas Hogg, Alan Clarke and other Old Etonians in Mrs Thatcher’s cabinet. He may not have bothered to correct himself when Cameron proceeded to appoint one Old Etonian in his cabinet – a chap by the name of David Cameron.
This is not to defend class privilege in the UK. There’s no question that Team Cameron is loaded with Old Etonians, but perhaps Blumenthal was unaware that Thatcher’s leadership campaign was led by Airey Neve who went to school at…..Eton. Blumenthal was doing Clinton no favours in wrongly skewing her perspective of the future leader of the UK.
Another newspaper says the emails describe Boris Johnson as ‘Tory Clown Prince’. They don’t. The text of the email in question says “… Boris Johnson, mayor of London, also known as the Tory “clown prince.” This leaves it open to interpretation if Blumenthal’s calling him that, or letting Clinton know that there is a perception of Johnson as a clown. Either way, he doesn’t give her the advice which she might have found useful – that despite Johnson’s carefully constructed buffoonish persona he is one to watch, and, if the circumstances are right, could be a future leader of the Conservative party.
Where Blumenthal got it right was in the passage about Cameron and Europe – “His future problem is that he does not want to be the leader who takes Britain out of Europe but he is putting himself in a position where he may not be able to prevent his party doing so.”
The emails are among those which Clinton should not have been sending or receiving on her personal account as they were about government business. They are fascinating, they are newsworthy, but they are not always the same as the headlines about them.