Does Cameron’s apology cut it?

Prime Minister David Cameron was on BBC television at the weekend, telling Andrew Marr that he was sorry for the ‘sexist’ comments he made on not one but two occasions. 

Some six months after the events, the PM said that he “deeply regrets” causing offence, and that the comments made in the House of Commons just “came out wrong and caused the wrong impression”. 

In case you don’t remember, in April, Cameron told shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Angela Eagle to “calm down dear”, echoing Michael Winner’s catchphrase of an advertising campaign some years back. Incidentally, Michael Winner was one of the first to rush to Cameron’s defence, describing Harriet Harman as a politically correct “lunatic” in the same sitting. 

Also in April, Cameron suggested that controversial Conservative MP Nadine Dorries was “extremely frustrated”. 

His rather late apology also featured in the Sunday Times, where he confirmed something we’re fairly sure he’s never been accused of: “What I find frustrating is that I'm not a sort of 'All right, luv, I'm down at the pub tonight' whatever. That's not me. But obviously I've come across in this way…" Cameron down the pub?

So, can seemingly patronising, belittling, patriarchal comments really just accidentally tumble out?

Should a man with his finger on the nation’s biggest buttons be able to excuse ‘sexism’ as a foolish fumble, and should we be happy that he can tie himself up so cringingly when under pressure? 

On the other hand, does a family man with an independent professional wife and a clutch of powerful females in his employ showcase enough of a progressive attitude through action, rather than words? And, in the jostling, insult-slinging environment of the Commons, is a winky put down just par for the course? 

In short, does Cameron’s apology cut it? 

[YouTube]Watch the video of the apology to “women”.

(pics: 'ukhomeoffice' on Flickr, 'Supermac1961' on Flickr)

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About Holly Seddon

Holly Seddon is a writer, editor and community consultant and helped launched the community for Adoption UK, which won charity website of the year just 9 months later. She also writes a music blog.

8 Comments

  1. 03 October 2011 / 17:03

    To start off with I cannot stand the man. I find him a stuck up, snooty and extremely patronising, arrogant buffoon that most probably only apologised because of pressure to do so. I doubt he would have done otherwise. Isn’t the ratio of men:women in the Commons rather in favour of men? I know that can be addressed as a totally separate issue but it does beg the question, why would any woman want to be associated with a sexist pig anyway?!
    I don’t think his apology cut it because I don’t think he meant it. He was embarrassed perhaps, but sorry? I very much doubt it. In his eyes, he has much bigger fish to fry than making an apology to women.
    CJ xx

  2. 03 October 2011 / 20:28

    months later – is nothing more than a hollow PR platitudes that mean nothing. Although, Nadine Dorries is extremely FRUSTRATING, his comments are poor. His attitude towards Angela Eagle was appalling and patronising. He had enough criticism at the time to ‘step up’ and apologise then. He didn’t come across as ‘some bloke from down the pub’ much as he would like to. His life of absolute privilege has set him apart for the experiences of most ordinary people, the coalitions current policies reflect a group of people with no understanding of the very poor or the impact of the spending review and price increases on average families.
    He has grown up in a elite male institution (Eton), then gone on to Oxford where he was a member of the elite Bullingdon club, it simply illustrates someone who is completely ‘out of touch’ sealed in his world of privilege. He may be surrounded by powerful women – but does he take them seriously? Obviously not.

  3. 03 October 2011 / 20:33

    Did he mean it, no. Should he have said it in the first place, no. On the bright side at least it gives an insight into what sort of a man he is, lets face it Gordon Brown made the same sort of slip after talking to a pensioner during the last campaign. I don’t remember Tony Blair, or Margaret Thatcher for that matter, making these kind of comments, does that mean they were better or just more slippery?
    Do I approve of his comment, no. As a student of history I am aware that this sort of behaviour ‘officially’ went out of the window a long time ago, however obviously not in real life.
    That’s my take as a BritDad, just thought one of us should comment.

  4. 03 October 2011 / 21:04

    Maybe I’m missing something…but just going on the two comments as described above? What is so outrageous? I’ve heard worse. Telling someone to calm down… and saying that someone is frustrated? Soon politicians won’t be able to say a damn thing…oh, wait. How is that a bad thing again? I’ve confused myself.. On the other hand, rumours of Michael Winner’s insensitivity are not greatly exaggerated.

  5. 04 October 2011 / 11:29

    Did I miss something? Why is that sexism? In his urge to fit in, he would have most likely said something like ‘Give me a break, pal’ had Angela Eagle be a man. And I don’t see why calling someone ‘frustrating’ is sexism either.
    Yes, it’s rude, but sexism??

  6. 04 October 2011 / 13:56

    The man is, as someone said earlier, completely out of touch with reality so why are we even remotely surprised that he’s coming out with jaded and frankly pathetic comments (although presumably he thought amusing – jeez!). He’s had a cossetted upbringing in the world of Eton before moving on (rather unimaginatively I must say) to Oxford. Rich wife, rich friends – he’s not a ‘bloke down the pub’ he’s a posh member of elite private members clubs who all live in the past. In fact, his insult is not so much to women but to ‘blokes down the pub’ as his implication is that the ordinary working classes are far more capable of sexism than one such as he. Yeah right! I agree with Billy Connolly. Anyone wanting to be a politician should be automatically banned from becoming one – they’re a liability.

  7. 04 October 2011 / 17:52

    Oooh Heather, that is such a good point about his off the cuff remark exhibiting stereotypical assumptions about working class blokes in the pub.

  8. Amanda
    05 October 2011 / 08:42

    It’s symptomatic of the endemic sexism within Parliament, but particularly within the Tory party. Their public sector massacre has led to unprecedented levels of female unemployment, and we’ve also been hit by cuts to child benefit and tax credits, and the change in the pension age. The new jobs they’re talking about creating in the housing sector (IF they happen) will largely benefit men. Coupled with high childcare costs, women are being forced out of work. Cameron is basically rewinding to the 1950s when the man worked and the woman stayed at home looking after the kids. So, yeah, he’s sexist, and no matter how much he ‘apologises’ it’s written all the way through him like a stick of Brighton rock, and trying to blame it on some working class stereotype is a pretty cynical thing to do.