The fall of David Cameron….
David Cameron, in his public appearances, is striking me as an increasingly exasperated figure. The wheels have fallen off the wagon, events are conspiring against the government, and he simply does not know what to do. When historians look back and wonder what started the slide I can’t help but feel they should start by looking at the departure of Steve Hilton. Although many people, for reasons that are a mystery to me, rate George Osborne’s ability as a master tactician it was Hilton, in my opinion that brought it all together and who was the vital driving force behind the political strategy at Number 10. Up to the point of Hilton’s departure, the Prime Minister had been amazingly adept at avoiding personal blame being apportioned to him for the screw-ups his government made; however, post Hilton it has all gone distinctly Pete Tong and not only does the mud stick but Downing Street’s fleetness of foot has been replaced by clumsy tactical blundering. On top of this, the Murdoch media wants Cameron’s head (though not a change of governing party), and the rest of the media either supports Labour or never much liked Cameron in the first place (The Mail, Telegraph, etc); the mood music is building to a crescendo of noise, noise that demands action and that somebody be made to pay the ultimate price for the governments fall from public grace.
Hilton’s presence, in my eyes, probably kept a lid on alot of internal opposition that has always been present within the Conservative Party to Cameron’s regime. Now it is open season on Cameron and Osborne and the restive back benches are stirring to life; all that is needed is a spark to light the flame and the results of the upcoming elections in May may well provide that spark. Even if the Conservatives cling-on in London, it will be precisely because at key-points Boris Johnson has distanced himself from his own government and holding the London Mayoralty will be little consolation to Conservative MPs who see their vital activist base of Conservative councillors decimated. The prospect of losing that comfy green seat in Parliament tends to focus the mind of an MP awfully well. If they see the axe looming, no matter how far away the execution maybe, they will suddenly find their voice and become more openly critical of Cameron. Survival instinct, coupled with a natural lack of affinity they already feel for Cameron in the first place, will eventually be enough to motivate them into action.
The Conservatives as a body of people are utterly ruthless and quite proficient when it comes to maintaining power, even against the odds. For example, the dramatic overthrow of Margaret Thatcher should have been enough to finish any government Party but lo-and-behold it wasnt and they won again in 1992. At the time, Labour made the huge blunder of underestimating their old rivals and sadly I see the same mistake being made again all too easily.
It’s very nice that we have such huge opinion poll leads but they mean practically nothing when it comes to determining the outcome of the next election. When Cameron falls, the government will enjoy a bounce, as any government does, due to having a new leader and I would not expect them to make the mistake Gordon Brown did and capitalise on that by going to the country. Under the pretext of the new leader needing a democratic mandate, Conservative MP’s will gladly trot through the division lobby to dissolve their own government and it will really be impossible for any of the other parties to vote any other way either, although the Liberal Democrats, staring into the electoral abyss will want too. Labour needs to avoid the complacency trap: even if the opinion poll leads were 26% ahead we would not be home and dry and if we allow ourselves to start thinking we are for a single second, well then the next election most definitely will be lost.