David Cameron looks set to be the first one-term PM in decades. Even if his party wins the next election, it would not be long before a purge from within would topple him. How could this have happened? This article speculates on the question all Conservatives are likely to be asking: ‘where did is all go wrong?’
“He’s the first leader in history to flunk an election because he thought he was going to win it!” 
Mr Cameron’s cutting quip at the expense of then prime minister Gordon Brown’s ‘election-that-never-was’ was masterful in its timing and execution, scripted or no. It exposed a central weakness in Mr Brown’s flank – that he had never faced an electoral contest within his own party when he assumed leadership of the clapped out New Labour bandwagon, nor had he faced the electorate. He was a prime minister hitching a ride on a mandate bestowed upon his predecessor. Indeed, at every subsequent election, Mr Brown was punished by the electorate, not only because the public were weary of the New Labour management, but because Brown had exhibited the fact that he was a dismal and incompetent leader.
Yet Mr Cameron’s witticism now yields a prescient historical irony. He could show leadership, consolidate his power within his party and from the general public by calling an election of a different kind – a referendum on the EU. Yet with Brown-like stubbornness, he pursues defeat, division and disenchantment from within his own party and the public at large by not only denying such a vote , but also having his aides brief that the electorate do not want such a vote.
It should be made clear that this is not the only reason Cameron’s leadership is crumbling. The necessary but unpopular cuts the coalition claim to have made have grown wearisome for an impatient public who are not seeing the promised growth such cuts were meant to stimulate. Disquiet with ill-conceived policies has led to so many u-turns the coalition is driving in circles and ministers such as the discredited Jeremy Hunt and the disliked Baroness Warsi only compound the PM’s destabilised position.
Not to mention the savings a rejection of the EU would provide the UK economy, an in-out EU referendum would also galvanise his leadership among the party and the public and showleadership in its defiance of unpopular and unelected EU bureaucrats who have been proven to be inept at governance. At this juncture in an unprecedented historical crisis, Mr Cameron has bottled when he had the opportunity to grasp the initiative proving that he has – like Mr Miliband – neither the intellect nor the strength of character to show true and much needed leadership.
Quite simply, an EU referendum is an open goal for Mr Cameron to win the next General Election. That he does not seize this opportunity fundamentally undermines him.
Even before major indecisions concerning policy undermine Mr Cameron, the Conservatives must be wondering what happened to the compelling verbal assassin who, weekly, destroyed the fumbling Gordon Brown. It was a bloodsport not to be missed. If he managed to land such powerful blows on a ‘heavyweight’ like Brown, why does Mr Cameron struggle to confound the insipid Mr Miliband?
Readers of this blog will know that it regards Mr Miliband with utter contempt. It’s not personal, there’s simply no way he can disguise what a lightweight he is; the more he tries, the more he blunders. He is a clueless leader at the head of a policy-less party. What grates is both his obsequious and ingratiating tone on the one hand and the way he flounders and squeaks like an indignant teenager on the other. Not only does the Labour party have no policy, their track record in government leaves them with no legs to stand on.
If Mr Cameron is unable to outmanoeuvre the Labour party when they are bereft of credibility, if he cannot defeat the witless Mr Miliband, then it follows that Mr Cameron deserves to lose the next election, especially when he has had every opportunity fulfil such promise.
Where did it all go wrong? Take your pick. That the Conservatives did not win the 2010 General Election outright did not bode well and, in the opinion of this writer, this was probably quite likely down to Mr Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ notion. Certainly this idea had shades of promise – encourage voluntary work as a means of restoring social cohesion (lost under the Labour government) and, plainly, get something for nothing. Who can blame them for trying. The trouble was that the Big Society lacked clarity or defined parameters – this is understandably disconcerting – if a government in waiting has not defined their message, then it is only logical that the electorate will be wary. So it may have been the Big Society – but luckily the Conservatives are spoilt for choice when it comes to finding the root causes of their current ills. One cannot deny that coalition with the Lib Dems has curtailed Tory policy, but even so, there is no sense of what the Conservative policy is, so it matters not.
The Lib Dems may now be dead as a party, but the Conservatives are mortally wounded. Mr Cameron’s socialist leanings have stripped the Tory party of their identity. He may have betrayed the Conservative’s traditional members, but in so doing, he has haemorrhaged support to UKIP – which is no bad thing so far as this blog is concerned.
The Conservatives are suffering a fool gladly in Mr Cameron, a PM whose guileless leadership has further damaged democracy by giving the electorate every reason to be disaffected and disenchanted.
It is a striking end. After all, he was the future once.
© thepanopticonblog, 2012
- 1. ‘Cameron Shreds Brown to Pieces’. YouTube. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xUy2inkGHQ>
- 2. ‘Eight in ten voters want referendum on Europe, poll finds’. The Telegraph. 11 June 2012. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9323583/Eight-in-ten-voters-want-referendum-on-Europe-poll-finds.html>
- 3. James Kirkup et al. ‘The people don’t want a referendum on Europe, insists No.10′. The Telegraph. 12 June 2012. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/eureferendum/9327984/The-people-dont-want-a-referendum-on-Europe-insists-No-10.html>