Cameron's confidence ahead of British elections puts off some

A power-sharing deal between Cameron and Nicholas Clegg of the Liberal Democrats ended 13 years of Labor Party rule and resulted in Britain's first coalition government since the 1940s.
By Karla Adam
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 3, 2010; 6:13 PM

LONDON -- Is there anything more unseemly in the heat of a British campaign than hinting that you have the top job before you really do?

David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party, appeared to do just that on Sunday. Speaking on the "Andrew Marr Show" on the BBC, Cameron outlined the actions that his administration would take once in power: establish a "war cabinet" to focus on Afghanistan, cut Tory ministers' pay, and slash the Parliament's "absurd" three-month summer break. At the end of the interview, Cameron said that his party had "momentum now to go into these last few days."

Boasting is the height of bad manners in Britain, and for many voters it seemed even worse coming from Cameron. The rising political star has, after all, tried to shake off the image that his party is one for the ruling classes.

While the Conservative made clear that he was outlining actions he would take "if I'm elected," he sounded confident enough of the outcome on May 6 to open himself up to a kicking from his rivals -- which he duly received.

"David Cameron, with breathtaking arrogance, is already measuring up the curtains for No. 10," Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, told a rally of supporters in London on Monday.

Peter Mandelson, the Labor Party's campaign director, who never misses a chance to take a swipe at the Tories, chimed in: Cameron "is desperate to give the impression that he is home and dry," when in fact "the overwhelming majority of voters are firmly resisting his soft-soap campaign."

Most of the recent opinion polls suggest Cameron's Conservatives will win the most seats in a hung parliament, but to some, the Tory leader still came off as slightly too full of himself this side of election day.

He is "almost at the point of filling the fridge and hanging Samantha's paintings," columnist Jackie Ashley wrote in the Guardian. "The self-assurance is awesome, and perhaps a little too early," she said.

Cameron has broken "the convention that opposition leaders never publicly anticipate victory," wrote political editor Roland Watson in the Times of London, adding that it was his "first big gamble of the campaign."

For his part, Cameron played down the hubbub, saying there was not an "ounce of complacency" in his party and pointed out he would be campaigning throughout the night on Tuesday in an effort to secure more voters.

"If I was overconfident, I wouldn't be going on a 24-hour non-stop campaign to win over the last undecided voters," Cameron said a rally in Blackpool on Monday. "But I think people do want to know, if you win on Thursday, what would change on Friday?"

© 2010 The Washington Post Company