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Does Cameron Really Want To Win?

Last Updated: Friday, September 20th, 2013

Fraser Nelson, the Editor of the Spectator, has a fascinating article in today’s Daily Telegraph, in which he describes an address that the Prime Minister gave recently to a Conservative audience at that most Tory of institutions, the Carlton Club.  Nelson reports that it was “one of the best speeches David Cameron has given, listing Tory achievements and stressing how many more there would be without a coalition partner weighing him down”.  The Conservative leader said that “his mission was to have the Lib Dems sit ‘opposite us, not beside us’ “.

But did the Prime Minister really mean it – or was he trimming his sails to the wind of a Tory audience?  The reason that I both ask the question and am doubtful about the answer is that I can think of a good reason for him wanting to win outright, and an equally good one for him not wanting to do so.  Let’s have both versions.

Version One: Cameron wants to win outright for the simple reason that he wants to be a winner – and to be seen as one.  He resents falling short of a majority in 2010, and wants the authority in 2015 that one would command, not to mention the consequent place in the history books.  He also wants to do the things that he told the dinner he wants to do – to quote Nelson: “restore rigour to school exams, slow the spread of wind turbines, bring in workplace deregulation to encourage employment, give schools financial freedom and end the anachronism of national pay bargaining”.

Version Two: Cameron does not want to win outright because the electoral topography makes it impossible for him to win by more than a handful of seats.  This would leave him dependent in the Commons on the 20 or so Conservative MPs who simply want him out: in effect, it would threaten to leave any Cameron-led majority Conservative Government rudderless.  That prospect looks uninviting compared to a second Tory-LibDem Coalition with a comfortable Parliamentary majority of, say, 50 or so.  Furthermore, Cameron is temperamentally and politically at ease with sharing power with the Liberal Democrats.

Which version do I believe? Both – that’s to say, my answer changes depending on the degree of difficulty the Prime Minister is having with his own Party, or with the Liberal Democrats, or both.  I suspect that the same may be true for Cameron himself.  The situation is not such as to offer a clear-cut choice.

Which takes us to a key message of this conference season.  As I never tire of pointing out, the Tories must be seven or so points ahead of Labour in 2015, unless they pull off a sensational result on their marginal seats, to win a majority.  The poll gap between the two main parties may have closed, but the confident tone of Nick Clegg’s speech to his party’s conference, UKIP’s own event today, and Lord Ashcroft’s poll of those marginal seats as they stand all point to the same conclusion: at present, the most likely result in 2015 is another hung Parliament. So my question about the Prime Minister is well worth asking.

By Paul Goodman


HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE WEEK ON CONSERVATIVEHOME

Andrew Lilico: Why we should not ban veils “Most folk try to fit in with those they want to get along with, and the clothes we wear are a key part of that.  We wear jeans when our pals wear jeans, bikinis when our pals wear bikinis, nose-rings when our pals wear nose-rings, and veils when our pals wear veils.  Saying veils should be banned because some women wear them to try to fit in makes no more sense than saying nose-rings should be banned because some women wear them to try to fit in (which is true).

Provided no-one is threatening violence or theft or kidnapping or other criminality, British women should be allowed to wear veils, other than inappropriate times (passport control, etc.) if that is what they want to do.  And if they choose not to do that, those that think they should wear them are entitled to shun them.  That’s what freedom is.” Read more: http://is.gd/TxfW4k

Chris Grayling MP: Here are the reforms I’m announcing today to support and manage offenders “Crucially, we will give the organisations who deliver that new service much more freedom and much less bureaucracy to operate in – but in return they will be partly paid by results. That’s absolutely the right way to deliver innovative new ideas, but to protect the interests of the taxpayer. Of course that won’t work for every prisoner. There are some deeply dangerous and unpleasant people out there, and they will continue to be supervised closely by   a new National public probation service. Wherever there is a serious risk of harm to the public, we will make sure that it is Government and the public sector that watches over that risk. Today marks a major milestone in the development of our plans. There’s been enormous interest from both the private sector and the voluntary sector over the last few months. We’re now inviting them to state a clear interest in being part of our tendering process. And we’re setting out in much more detail how the new system will work.” Read more: http://is.gd/oK5okp

Paul Goodman: Victory for ConservativeHome as Party declares membership figure – 134,000 “I asked on this site in early August why the Party wouldn’t declare a membership figure, and ran the editorial asking the question every day for a week – a first for this site.  The answer was plain. 253,600 members voted during the 2005 leadership election, and Downing Street didn’t want headlines declaring that since David Cameron won it membership has fallen by roughly half.  These are certain to follow the figure that senior CCHQ sources have disclosed to ConservativeHome – 134,000 constituency members, which is a bit over that halfway mark.  So how reliable is that headline total?  And why has CCHQ changed its mind about releasing it? This site has seen an individual constituency breakdown of the 134,000 figure, but has not had the time to examine it closely: we will do so during the next few days. (The Party claims that the total membership figure is 174,000.*)” Read more: http://is.gd/45Rl4l

Andrew Gimson: Lib Dems in Glasgow cannot hide harmony in Downing Street “It seems Mr Cable is determined not to back himself into a position where he feels obliged to take action instead of striking attitudes. Meanwhile the business of government continues to be transacted in Downing Street in a spirit, for the most part, of civility and partnership, between people like Danny Alexander and David Laws on one side, and Francis Maude and Oliver Letwin on the other. Each side understands the other’s position, is prepared to make reasonable compromises and is excited by the many things that can be achieved within those constraints. This harmonious co-operation is an affront to our tradition of politics, which is adversarial: it relies on people in different parties, and indeed within the same party, not getting on with each other” Read more: http://is.gd/bC2M3j

Coming for Party Conference – a ConservativeHome redesign “My experience is that newspapers and websites reach for a redesign, it usually means that they’ve given up on not improving the content – or, worse, no longer know who they are.  However, I’ve been persuaded that a redesign can improve the site both for old readers and new. Its main aim be is to separate the news and comment more clearly and to project the latter more decisively. Our aim is to have it up and running next week.  This is ambitious timing, given the demands of the conference season, and mistakes will doubtless be made as we grapple with the new format.  So apologies in advance – but none the less, this is change worth making. For clarity: what won’t alter is that this site is a home for the conservative family, wants to get comments and views from all parts of it, and will continue to build on its own style of conservatism – what Tim calls Little Guy conservatism and I call Bolton West conservatism.  Watch out for more of it as the Conservative Conference gets closer.” Read more: http://is.gd/MOpg16

By Paul Goodman

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