Archive for the 'David Cameron' Category


Cameron really does need to be more careful about the words he chooses

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

Nigel Farage was right – using the term “swarm” to describe migrants was a mistake


The prospect of fighting a disintegrating LAB could cause Dave to change his mind about stepping down

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Is he having second thoughts about his exit date?

Following Cameron’s comments in the BBC interview at the end of March there’s a widespread assumption that at some stage this parliament that he’ll step aside and a new CON leader will be elected presumably becoming PM before the May 2020 general election.

But is he? The conversation in Cameron’s kitchen came at a time when the election outcome looked very tight. Very few were making assumptions that an overall CON majority was going to be possible. The political context was very different from today.

There were many in the party ready to cast the blame on Dave for failing in 2010 to secure a majority against Gordon Brown. In May, against all expectations, Cameron became an unequivocal election winner.

Now the Tories are in power without the encumbrance of the LDs and look set to be there for all the five years. In the meantime we’ve seen the extraordinary developments within LAB which looks even further now from a GE20 victory than it did on May 8th. Could Cameron’s view of his own future have changed? This was John Rentoul in yesterday’s Indy on Sunday.

“Soon Cameron will have to manage speculation about exactly when before the next election he will stand down, as promised from his Oxfordshire kitchen to the BBC’s James Landale, who tried to hide his excitement at the scoop by fiddling with some vegetable or other.

Indeed, the Prime Minister might have to manage the speculation (from me) that he might change his mind about stepping down before the next election. On current trends, it doesn’t look as if the Labour Party is going to put up much of a fight, so you can imagine Cameron having second thoughts. As he entertained Westminster journalists in the garden of No 10 last week, he looked as fresh-faced as ever, invigorated by the youth-giving elixir of election victory.”

I agree with Rentoul’s observation. It is far from clear that Cameron will go according to the assumed time-table. Walloping LAB again in a general election might prove to be too tempting.

Mike Smithson


If the government cannot get key measures through the commons then it doesn’t have a working majority

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

George Eaton’s analysis is right


Tsipras’ own goal is Cameron’s gain

Friday, July 3rd, 2015


David Herdson on a crucial weekend

If there were any doubt that David Cameron is a lucky politician, events in Europe this last week have again made the point. No sooner had he suffered a setback at the European Council, failing to win a chance of treaty reform, than the Greek government gives him (inadvertently, no doubt), a huge helping hand.

The decision of Alexis Tsipras to commit his government to destruction by a method to be determined by the Greek voters tomorrow might be somewhat unorthodox by normal standards but then this is no orthodox government. The act of a snap referendum was, however, perhaps predictable as the equivalent of a student sit-in or protest march, which is the kind of politics Syriza is familiar with: the belief that a demonstration of solidarity and causing enough of a fuss will force opponents to grant concessions.

Those tactics work rarely enough in the workplace or the university, never mind the conference chambers of government, which is why Syriza has signed its own government’s death warrant. If the vote’s a Yes then its resignation follows, leading inevitably to new elections which one presumes the centre-right New Democracy would win. Alternatively, if it’s a No then it’s a more drawn out and bloody affair with an inevitable stand-off effectively between Yanis Varoufakis on the one hand, Wolfgang Schäuble on the other and the Greek banks and population in between.

By that point, irrespective of the economics, political factors would be paramount and the overriding consideration of the creditors would be to avoid setting an easy precedent – and the creditors, who in the context of an uncontrolled bank run have the trump card of effectively controlling Greece’s money supply and hence its ability to import food, petrol and other essentials – will therefore win providing they keep their nerve. Quite how the government would fall remains an open question but that it would fall is not.

Which way the vote will go is hard to call. The betting markets have Yes at a consistent 4/9 with SkyBet offering No at 7/4 (all other bookies quoting 13/8). That seems to me to considerably overestimate Yes’s chances; sufficiently so to recommend No at those odds.

No is clearly the loud campaign – who rallies for austerity? – and the government clearly believes its own delusions as to what the outcome will mean. And voters believe in the truth of that which is plainly strongly believed. Furthermore, at the last election, the main parties actively, if independently, advocating No polled 52.8% between them (you can’t call as disparate a group as the communist KKE, the radical leftist Syriza, the populist-nationalist ANEL and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn a ‘coalition’ or ‘alliance’). By contrast, those advocating Yes, the conservative New Democracy, centrist Potami and social democrats Pasok only polled 38.5%. (The rest of the 2015 vote went to parties who failed to make it to parliament). The polls, with one exception have all shown the two sides within 4% of each other but with upwards of 15% undecided. That doesn’t feel to me like a solid Yes.

Of course, a loud campaign isn’t necessarily a winning campaign and Yes voters have plenty of reasons to be shy about their intentions. The likelihood is that No will struggle to reach most of the undecided: if they were inclined to vote that way they’d already be there. The question is whether Yes can motivate them instead.

What does all this have to do with David Cameron? Domestically, it again reinforces the message of responsible spending, of fixing the roof while the sun shines or at least making a start once the storm’s passed. Within the EU, it means the UK is no longer the most awkward member. True, the notion of opting out of ever closer union might be heretical to some but at least Britain wants to do it by changing the rules and staying within the rules. Greece’s game-playing, by contrast, is disruption of a different order. There’s an incentive for the Euro-elite to differentiate between the two approaches. Furthermore, there’s a real risk of Greece not only leaving the Eurozone but the EU itself. To lose one member may be unfortunate but to lose two would risk starting a fashion. There is therefore a strong incentive to cut a deal.

But it’s not just about appeasing the Brits. The Eurocrisis has been the beginning of the end of the Delors-era EU: the Europe of the Social Chapter and the federalising-through-regulation. The austerity programme, forced on many members in part via the Euro, has meant a rolling back of the social agenda. Put simply, it’s shifting the EU to the right. And that’s the positive case for Cameron to put to the sceptics in his own party.

David Herdson


Dave’s European Challenge has become very big and very real

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

Dave hassled

Cameron could win the vote and still lose his job

Selling the deal to the country was always going to be the easy bit. The tough ask for David Cameron is selling it to his party. The outcome of this week’s summit is, in that sense, one step forwards and two steps back. Simply getting the issue formally into the EU’s ongoing agenda was an achievement but one that is heavily diluted by the acceptance that there’ll be no treaty change.

For the EU, Britain’s demands for reform are no doubt an unwelcome distraction when it has more than enough other challenges to be going on with: the Greek Debt drama, the Med migrants and an aggressively resurgent Russia all demand immediate attention. But many of the issues are interlinked and consequently, so will the solutions be. Cameron’s reforms could easily fit into those same processes.

The danger for the PM is that he’s potentially caught between two extremes. On the one hand, no matter what the result, there are many both in the general public and in the Conservative Party who would like him to ‘do a Thatcher’, and handbag his opposite numbers into giving Britain its powers back, in the manner that she did over the rebate. On the other, Cameron simply can’t afford for the process to become seen as Britain vs the EU, because that’s a battle the EU can’t afford to lose – which means it won’t, given that the other members have a veto over it.

That’s almost certainly why when he made his original speech outlining his aims, Cameron defined his goals not as ‘winning back’ power for Britain as such but as a more ambitious but also more equal project to make the EU more relevant, more efficient, more accountable and (implicitly – he didn’t say it), more popular. Because the reality is that it’s not Britain’s negotiations that threaten the EU’s existance; it’s the risk of collapse from within, from a lack of legitimacy, of purpose and of prosperity.

You might think that it would therefore be in all side’s interests to do a deal that not only addresses the challenges of today but is grounded in the reality of the 21st century rather than the mid-20th: “ever closer union” and all that. However, institutions under most pressure are often least likely to question their purpose because it’s that purpose which defines identity, irrespective of whether it’s effective, appropriate or demanded.

However, unless Cameron can get something, either on an EU-wide level or a special deal for the UK, then how does he sell it to his party? On Europe, the Conservatives are far less split than media commentators stuck in the 1990s might have you believe. The number of irreconcilable EU-phobes in his ranks in Westminster is relatively small – around half a dozen members of Better Off Out and a few others sympathetic to that end. There are even fewer old-fashioned pro-Europeans: he’s called Ken Clarke. In between are what I’ll label Pragmatists and Sceptics. Pragmatists believe that it’s worth being a member on current terms but that it could and should be much better and delivering that improvement should be the prime policy objective. Sceptics believe that current terms aren’t worth it but that the general principle of the Common Market was sound and that in the unlikely event of Britain getting something like that sort of membership back then they’d be In rather than Out.

Cameron’s problem is that short of a major shift in intention among his EU colleagues, there’ll be nothing of that nature on offer; neither a reform in the nature of the EU itself, nor in Britain’s membership terms of it. If that is the result, there’s a good chance that well over 50% of Conservative voters – led by (ex-?)cabinet ministers – will back Out. (On the other hand, if Cameron is successful then expect well over two-thirds to back him).

The PM could still win a referendum against that scale of voter and MP defection, relying on supporters of Labour, the Lib Dems and SNP, but his position would be like Blair’s after Iraq. Put another way, the chances of him standing down in 2017 increased markedly this week.

David Herdson

p.s. Also on matters European, the latest last-ditch talks between Eurozone Finance Ministers take place today; an almost entirely fruitless exercise. In these kind of multilateral negotiations, success is determined by whether the most intransigent parties are prepared to sign up. In this case, that’s the IMF on one side and Tsipras’ Syriza Party on the other. Without both, it’s default. Rather like the descent into WWI, the question is not whether either side wants to precipitate a default but whether they’re more scared of the consequences of giving in to the other side’s demands than of standing up to them.


The widespread assumption that Dave won’t lead CON into the next election might be wrong

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

How much should we attach to the famous Landale interview?

Whenever people discuss the next election they will invariably point out that the Tories will not, unlike 2010 and 2015, be led by David Cameron.

All this is based on the televised kitchen conversation that the PM had with the BBC’s James Landale in March a week or so before the official campaign began.

    My reading after watching the video again is that this was not a firm commitment to stand aside and that we cannot necessarily conclude that a new person will lead the Tories in 2020.

A key factor, of course, is that Cameron’s comments were made when virtually nobody, himself included I guess, thought a Tory majority was possible. Now that he has pulled that off he’s in a much stronger position within his party and the country. Cameron is now what he wasn’t in 2010 – an unequivocal winner.

Of course there is a lot that could go wrong in the next five years. The EU negotiations and referendum won’t be an easy ride but I wonder whether having tasted a clear victory on May 7th will have impacted on Cameron’s career planning. He is, after all, a relatively young man and would only be 53 at the next election.

If you are prepared to lock up your stake for 5 years then the William Hill 16/1 that he’ll cease to be CON leader in 2021 or later looks a value bet.

Mike Smithson


Mr. Cameron might rue the day that his party was reluctant to embrace the reform of the House of Lords

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

The numbers look potentially tricky

A key moment in the last parliament was in July 2012 when CON back-bench rebels voted down a timetable motion on the Lords Reform bill thus making it highly unlikely that it would get through the house. A few days later Cameron pulled the plans completely – a move that led to Mr. Clegg pulling the plug on boundary reform.

So the upper house remains unreformed something that could be tricky for the government as it tries to move forward with its legislative programme. In the last parliament the coalition’s numbers made the task much easier. Now things might be different.

There’s a good article by UCL Prof Meg Russell on the challenges that might lie ahead. For although the LDs were almost totally smashed on Thursday the party still has 101 members of the Lords, who are there for life, and this could present obstacles in a whole series of ways.

She notes that the band of LD peers has “swelled impressively over time – in his 10 years as Prime Minister Tony Blair appointed 54 Lib Dem peers; in the five years 2010-15 David Cameron appointed a further 40.”. She goes on:-

“..So the Conservatives are in a relatively weak position in the Lords, holding less than a third of seats. The government can readily be defeated by various combinations of other forces – including Labour, Liberal Democrats, Bishops and Crossbenchers. These last two groups vote less frequently than party peers, and also do not vote as a block. So the key group is – once again – the Liberal Democrats. They are now numerically stronger than before, and following recent events are badly bruised. Despite having worked until recently alongside the Conservatives, their instincts may now often be to vote with Labour. The Lords has traditionally taken a stand on constitutional issues (recall the climbdowns forced on Blair over restricting trial by jury, detaining terrorist suspects, and introducing ID cards) – so we can expect clashes over the government’s plans to repeal Human Rights Act, reform parliamentary boundaries and hold an EU in-out referendum, where Labour and Lib Dems will readily find common cause…”

Of course Cameron could try to appoint dozen of new CON peers to bring the numbers into line but as Prof Russell points out the Tory manifesto had a commitment to address the size of the chamber and to have any effect a large number would have to be appointed.

Mike Smithson


Marf for tonight on Dave “being pumped up”

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015