PRIME Minister David Cameron desperately tried to draw a line under recent government setbacks yesterday by issuing pronouncements on Europe and law and order in a bid to get his government back on track.
The Prime Minister dismissed growing Conservative criticism of the Number 10 machine in the wake of the “plebgate” row as “Kremlinology”.
And he denied that the delayed resignation of chief whip Andrew Mitchell and the fiasco over Chancellor George Osborne’s train tickets showed the government was “out of touch”.
Number 10 is coming under heavy fire from Tories for presentational failures and a lack of long-term strategy.
Party grandee Lord Tebbit waded into the row this weekend by accusing ministers of incompetence for allowing themselves to be portrayed as “toffs”.
“The abiding sin of the government is not that some ministers are rich, but that it seems unable to manage its affairs competently,” the peer wrote.
Meanwhile, one of Mr Cameron’s top aides has risked fuelling doubts by admitting most of his time is spent on “crisis management”.
It emerged that Oliver Dowden, the PM’s deputy chief of staff, who oversees domestic policy, told a US public broadcaster last month that he was “surprised on a day-to-day basis” by the news agenda.
“Most of my time is spent on day-to-day crisis management –is the term we use,” he said.
“We’re not permanently in crisis, but dealing with the issues that arise on a day-to-day basis.”
Mr Cameron yesterday tried to galvanise his eurosceptic back-benches with a statement on last week’s Brussels summit where he reiterated his threat to veto the EU budget if it did not find significant savings.
Earlier, he promised to make prison work, as he signalled a tougher stance on crime in England and Wales. But the Prime Minister was still on the defensive as he denied Mr Mitchell’s delayed resignation and the fiasco over Mr Osborne’s train tickets showed the government was “out of touch”.
“We need to focus on the big picture,” Mr Cameron said. “What actually happened last week is that unemployment fell, inflation fell, waiting lists in our hospitals fell, crime fell, the right decision was made about Gary McKinnon [the Scottish computer hacker who last week won his plea not to be extradited to the United States].
“Those are the important things that are happening, in an economy where we’ve created a million private sector jobs in the last two years.
“There will always be people that will go on endlessly about process and processology and Kremlinology and all the rest of it, what actually matters is what is happening out there.”
Later in the Commons, he found himself under attack from both his own side and Labour over his stance on Europe.
Mr Cameron rejected demands from Tory eurosceptic Bill Cash that he “veto” a banking union in the eurozone, and by another, John Redwood, to use the EU budget veto to force Europe to hand back more powers.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said Mr Cameron had returned from the Brussels summit with “nothing to offer” on growth.
He also claimed that little progress had been made on completing the energy and digital single markets.