Sunday, January 08, 2006

 

Cameron's Impact on British Politics

As we are the beginning of a new year I thought it might be an idea to review the impact made by David Cameron on British politics so far.

1. Labour
a)Cameron has clearly rattled Labour more than a little. Blair seems bemused by him, not sure whether to go for the jugular or treat the new boy with polite and wary condescension. Brown favours the former strategy but so far has not found the suitable occasion to deliver the head butt he yearns to stick on the public school toff.
b)Blair's recent release of a home video showing him being lovably family oriented and blokish, might well be seen as part of his reaction to the Tory new boy.
c)By offering to support Blair's education proposals Cameron has speared into Labour's internal divisions. Blair must now realise that the backbench insurgency will, like that in Baghdad, get worse before it's over. The rebels are determined and organised and this is one legacy issue on which Blair will have to compromise or face humiliation. The Economist this week speculates that if 100 or more revolt, Blair might have to resign now and not in 18 months time as seems to be his plan. He may have to rethink his whole public services stategy if he wishes to remain in power and secure any kind of the legacy he is after.
d)I also wonder if Cameron's youth might not encourage Labour to look to the next generation of Miliband or Douglas Alexander rather than 'yesterday's' Brown.

2. Liberal Democrats
We have seen what damage the rethinking on their leadership caused by Cameron's accession has done. The Lib Dems know that Cameron is busy colonising 'their' bit of the political spectrum and they felt that a more pro-active attitude was necessary than the famously laid-back one of Kennedy. At the next election the Conservatives will threaten many current Lib Dem seats and the new sof focus Tories need to be robustly resisted. Kennedy has now gone and his successor would appear to a short-term lease on the leadership by Ming Campbell. My feeling is that his age will not stand against Campbell but once he goes, the baton is likely to be passed to the younger challenger Oaten than to Simon Hughes. The highly praised Nick Clegg might even appear in the frame to keep the challenge even younger.

3. Conservatives
It is on his own party, of course, that Cameron will work the biggest changes. It is, of course, not before time as the Tories seemed to be headed for terminal decline without some major change of direction. I suspect the devastating report by the Policy Exchange, last June, might have provided the fillip the party's leadership needed. Howard was probably already convinced that his neo Thatcherite approach was the stuff of history books and no basis for the party to build on for success. But now we are just beginning to hear the cries of muted protest from the cadres who have been in charge for the past two decades. We've heard Melanie Phillips on Radio Four last Saturday lamenting the progress of the Tories away from Conservatism and read her in her 2nd January Daily Mail column but I am sure old lags like Tebbit and his ilk are quietly seething into the G and Ts in their London clubs as their prized values are unloaded and cast aside by the day. There will be more negative reaction as Cameron continues to paly the game Blair played in the mid nineties of shedding his party of electorally liabilities in terms of shadow ministers and policies which conjure up the old unelectable Conservative Party of the nineties and since.

What of the end of the year?
i)Will Blair still be there as PM? I think so, but with authority even more underminded and hisparty counting the days until his departure.
ii)Will Cameron be leading a party still on the upwrd trajectory? I think yes; his first moves have given us no reason to think he is anything other than a clever and respourceful politician who will continue to be surefooted. I ecxpect the Tories to be well ahead in the polls by then.
iii)Will Campbell still lead the Lib Dems? Yes, I think he'll win the contest and stay for a year at least. He might even prove to be so good that he reclaims some of the substantial ground lost to youth by midle-aged politicians in recent months.

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