Britain's Cameron is 'sphinx without a riddle', ex-UK government adviser says

LONDON (REUTERS) - British Prime Minister David Cameron is a bumbling, out-of-touch leader surrounded by sycophants, a former government adviser was quoted as saying on Monday.

In a blistering critique of Cameron's premiership, the former adviser to Education Secretary Michael Gove cast the prime minister as presiding over a shambolic Downing Street operation and a team of advisers who were out of their depth. "As Bismarck said about Napoleon III, Cameron is a sphinx without a riddle," Dominic Cummings, who quit as an adviser at the end of January, was quoted as saying in the Times newspaper. "Everyone is trying to find the secret of David Cameron but he is exactly what he appears to be. There's no mystery to him. He had a picture of (former Prime Minister Harold) Macmillan on his wall - that's all you need to know," Cummings said.

A spokesman for Cameron's office declined to comment on the report. Cummings, who has previously courted controversy with public criticism of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, could not be reached for immediate comment.

Such public criticism from a former adviser to one of Cameron's own allies may indicate tensions within Cameron's government after a row between Gove and Home Secretary Theresa May over an alleged Muslim extremist plot to infiltrate schools.

It also shows a broader unease at Cameron's reputation as a leader who some critics say lacks the rigour of former British leaders such as Tony Blair or Margaret Thatcher.

In 2012, one rebellious Conservative lawmaker branded Cameron and finance minister George Osborne "two posh boys who don't know the price of milk", a jibe that has regularly been repeated by the opposition Labour party.

Members of his own Conservatives have also complained that Cameron is surrounded by former pupils of England's most exclusive school, Eton, where he himself was schooled.

Allies dismiss the criticism and say Cameron is focused on getting Britain's economy working properly, a task they say is far more important to voters ahead of the May 2015 election than which school someone went to.

But Cummings said Cameron's team was not up to the job. "To get anything done you have to have priorities and there are no priorities. Everyone is discouraged from telling the truth to important people. There's no grip, no focus," he said.

Cummings said Cameron and Osborne both lacked the outside experience to get things done in government. "Poor David and George, look at their preparation - neither of them has worked in a large complex organisation that's well managed. They've got nothing to compare it to," he said. "All they see is very smart, well-dressed people who are quite like them standing in front of them who click their heels and say, 'Yes chancellor, yes prime minister, we'll sort your problem tomorrow'. But nothing happens."