Sunday, October 04, 2009

What are Cameron's Woes?

Clegg had a distinctly modest conference; Brown had a pretty dreadful one; so surely of the three main leaders David Cameron has predictably the biggest spring in his step? Well, yes and no. Yes, in that opinion polls are going his way and have been for some time; he looks and sounds like a prime minister in waiting; he didn't get tripped up by one or two rather infantile Marr questions in the same way that Brown did last week; the Sun is still in love with him; and he appears to have a complete control of his party.

But it is not all completely rosy for the first Tory leader in over a decade to look like he might win power. There are a couple of real problems on the horizon that could yet engulf him. The first is a policy issue. Whilst Cameron is, probably sensibly, policy lite, he starts to get into real difficulties when explaining the impact of his proposed cuts regime. It was on the question of "How many people will lose their jobs when you make your promised cuts?" that Andrew Marr really seemed to make Cameron uncomfortable. He knows cuts = job losses, but he absolutely cannot say so. His gamble is that the electorate are currently keener to see economic stringency (in the belief that this is good economic management) than confront the prospect of public sector job losses, but that is not necessarily a given over the next few months. Labour aren't yet so incompetent that they can't land some useful PR punches on Tory economic plans if they choose.

The second problem comes from within Mr. Cameron's own party. He may be the acceptable face of Tory change, but the deep suspicion that much of his party hasn't really changed still persists, and the unwelcome re-appearance of the Europe issue, in the form of Ireland's 'Yes' vote, brings this suspicion to the front of our consciousness, for it is in their fanatical opposition to Europe that many of the Tories' most unlovely characters force their way to the front of the publicity queue. Cameron's party is not as governable as people think, and if they think power is within their grasp they will see it as their right to keep Cameron to heel on the European issue. Hard-line Euro-sceptics have been the manifestation of the Tory's right-wing laager tendency for years, and for years their antics have denied Tory leaders the opportunity to win elections (they utterly screwed John Major's chances in 1997; it was the ludicrous Save the Pound campaign that ditched any faint prospect William Hague might have had in 2001). If he really is aware of his party's history and its pitfalls, David Cameron should be petrified of the Lisbon Treaty!

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