Former David Cameron Ally Slams 'Control Freak' Ex-Prime Minister

David Cameron Tony Blair
Former British Prime Ministers David Cameron (C) and Tony Blair (R) in Jerusalem September 30, 2016. Cameron and Blair's political management style has been criticized by a cabinet veteran. Abir Sultan/Reuters

One of David Cameron's former cabinet colleagues has lashed out at the former British prime minister's "control freak" management style.

In an extract from his new memoir, serialized in The Times Monday, Ken Clarke, who served in three Conservative government cabinets, including Cameron's, writes that Cameron and his chancellor George Osborne had taken their cues from Tony Blair in suppressing collective decision-making and dissent in the cabinet.

"David and George Osborne were huge admirers of Tony Blair's style of government and often referred to him as 'The Master,'" Clarke writes. "They wholeheartedly shared his inclination for personal decision-making by the prime minister and his close advisers across the whole range of policy."

"David also, as Tony did, believed in constant political campaigning as the daily style of politics and in exerting control-freak discipline over his colleagues," he adds.

Clarke says that cabinet committees on policy issues were used less to discuss policy than to "haul junior ministers over the coals in respect of the minutiae of delivery."

And he says that, where in Margaret Thatcher and John Major's cabinets "cabinet would take up three hours over a whole morning each week, at least, and we held lively and effective collective discussions," under Cameron opportunities for debate were "ever more squeezed," with Cameron arguing privately that the presence of political opponents in the coalition government made free debate more difficult.

Clarke says "this is a disastrous way to run the government of a complex modern nation state," lamenting how media management often takes priority over debate and serious policy thinking.

"Next week's headlines are given more priority than serious policy development and the long-term consequences for the nation," he argues in the book.

"The Thatcher government would never have pursued our political agenda if she or anyone else had paid too much notice to newspapers or opinion polls," he adds.