Archive for the 'David Cameron' Category


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



“Cameron has wanted out for a while – just wants to go out on a high” : Tim Montgomerie

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015


Dramatic Tweet exchange with Andrew Neil

This is not the sort of message that the Tories want to come out just two weeks before the big day and at a key moment with postal voters.

Cameron’s great strength is that he’s always been seen as more popular than his party something that had appertained since he became leader nine and half years ago. There is little doubt that he is an electoral asset.

Even though Miliband’s ratings have risen during this campaign he still trails the CON leader by some margin. So questions about how long Dave wants to stay are central to the whole Tory “offer” as we saw right at the start of the campaign. Then he made clear that he would stay for the length of the next parliament.

The danger now is just as Labour’s likely reliance on the SNP is dominating the campaign speculation about Cameron’s staying power could change the narrative.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


ICM finds voters totally split by Cameron’s third term annoucement

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

A new Guardian/ICM poll, just issued, of those planning to watch tomorrow’s C4 leaders’programme finds voters split 38-38 on Cameron’s 3rd term announcement

As you’d expect Tom Clarke in the Guardian reports a partisan split in the responses. His report notes that with CON supporters, 56% to 27% believe his move was right. Among LAB supporters, the view was by 50% to 29% – that he got it wrong.

Where Cameron came in for more criticism was over his speculation about who his successor might be.

In the betting, meanwhile, the Tories remain strong favourites to win most seats.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble


The polling finds David Cameron would get the blame were the debates not to take place

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

But do the public understand Cameron’s strategy and tactics over the debates?

The polling by YouGov on the debates doesn’t make for good reading for David Cameron, such as 50% think David Cameron is scared to debate other party leaders. whilst 38% mostly blame Cameron for the stalemate over the debates, whilst 13% mostly blame the broadcasters, and below, David Cameron doesn’t come off as sincere in regards to the debates.


However, in the polling for the Times’ Red Box website, YouGov found the following “Who do you think has the most to gain in TV debates?”


As we can see, the public can’t see much advantage for Dave taking part, but a lot of advantages for both Nigel Farage and Ed Miliband, 9% of the voters think Cameron has the most to gain. As Stephan Shakespeare of YouGov observes

So if the TV debates fail to happen, the public will at least be left with the impression of the Prime Minister as an astute tactician.

So perhaps he and the Tories might not take a hit in the voting intention were the debates not to happen, it depends on how much salience this topic has, although this story has a bit more to run, as it is being reported that No ’empty chair’ humiliation for David Cameron as BBC considers giving him his own general election programme’



Does this explain the Tory optimism about May

Friday, March 6th, 2015

“Labour voters are also generally lukewarm about their leader in a way that Conservatives are not about theirs.” – Opinium

The above chart shows how well Dave and badly Ed do among their own supporters, as other pollsters generally find as well. I’m of the view, that Ed’s poor ratings are priced into the voting intention, and that the voting intention is largely correct.

We’re going to find out in nine weeks time if it is priced in or not. These types of findings might well explain why particularly on betfair, the prices are much more bullish on the Tories doing better than the current polling suggests.

Opinium have also been tracking this “For a while now we’ve been asking voters to predict the 2015 election with the options being majorities for either big party or a hung parliament with either Labour or the Conservatives as the largest party. We defined a “win” as a party winning a majority or being the largest party in a hung parliament.”

This probably also probably explains the Tory optimism and expectation about May and feeds through to betfair.

Back in 2013, when Labour was routinely recording 10-point leads, 54% of voters expected Labour to ‘win’ vs. just 24% for the Conservatives. Now that both parties are at parity, Labour’s figure has dropped to 33% while the Conservatives’ has risen to 49%.

Among Labour voters themselves, the proportion predicting a win was 82% in 2013 but just 67% do so now. Conservative voters have gone from 60% expecting a win to 82% now.

To an extent this is just voters reading the polls and coverage of them which show that, even if momentum may not exactly be with the Tories, Labour have bled support across the country to the SNP, UKIP and more recently the Greens.

This also feeds into who they expect to be prime minister after the election. Overall Cameron leads Miliband by 46% to 23% but while 75% of Conservatives expect their leader to stay at No. 10, just 47% of Labour voters expect Ed Miliband to replace him.

The full data is available here