Sunday, November 26, 2006


Is the Cameron Bubble Bursting?

'Hello', I thought, as I perused my Observer this morning, 'What's this tumbler sized draught of schadenfreude?' 'One year on and Cameron is Slipping' runs the strap line. Today's poll puts his party only two points up on the 05 election and Cameron's personal rating has 'plummeted lower than Tony Blair's'.

I recall the campaign of David Davis in last year's election(his chief of staff? none other than our very own uber blogger, Iain Dale) seeking to combat Dave's boyish charm with the line that after nine year's of Tony Blair the last thing the Tories needed was a 'Blairlite' substitute. Now the polls suggest Conservatives ignored the wisdom of that advice. Only 25% are 'satisfied' with Cameron's performance as Opposition leader; this rises to 45% among Tory voters but even this figure shows a fall from 60% last February.

All his predecessors since 1997 have tried to move the party to the centre but then, when stalwart party members threatened to desert, shuttled rapidly back into the comfort zone of Thatcherism. By the autumn of last year the Tories had realised this would not do- hence the Cameron landslide. But now it seems his lurches to the left, accompanied by much cheesy grinning and shots of his family, have not secured the lasting breakthrough which the polls initially signalled. Oh dear Dave. Too big a shift too quickly? Or have our cynical voters just not believed you? Perhaps you'd best peel off the mask and let loose the real Tory who lurks beneath? Maybe, eventually, like Haigh, IDS and Howard, you'll have no option.

When I was with a group of my students at the Tory Conference in Blackpool, we were lucky enough to witness Cameron's speech, the one which propelled him to the leadership. What was interesting was the reaction of many True Blues around us. It was as if they'd been waiting in the wilderness for a messianic figure. And lo: Dave descended amongst them. Surely these disciples are not denying him already? Does it really matter anyway? Even the Conservative Party has the common sense to realise that to ditch another leader would be suicide. DC must be aware of this, too. He doesn't need to get back to the Thatcherite comfort zone: if it's true that he's looking for a scrap with the 'nasties' in the Party, he might as well get stuck in now. He's got nothing to lose. Maybe the Polly T thing is going to be the opening salvo.
I suspect the reality is in that phrase of Davis'. Why would an electorate sick of Blair, vote for a poor imitation? Cameron is stuck between a rock and a hard place. If he comes forward with ANY policies, as opposed to Commissions which he instantly distances himself from) he will be torn to shreds by Labour and Tories alike. If he doesn't, the popular public perception will be that he lacks substance. That's what we are seeing now and the poll is just showing that unless he puts flesh on the bones, confronts his own right-wing and actually STANDS for something other than trees with leaves and apple pie with custard for everyone.... he's stuffed!

PS... change your clock... I thought I was missing the cricket for a bit there Bill.
Good points both and I kind of think you are both right. DC must be secure so can press on regardless and he may find that avoiding policy specifics results in continuing poll decline.
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