Tories must guard against complacency and splits


Having been pleasantly surprised at their ability to form a majority government following the General Election in May, the Conservative Party must have thought all their Christmases’ had come at once when the Labour Party, post-election, inexplicably elected a new leader who has as much chance of walking into Downing Street as Prime Minister as I have of scoring a cup winning goal for Everton.

However, from basking in the glory of their main opposition’s collective suicide mission, the Tories must guard against complacency, and returning to the deep party splits that, in significant part, led to its downfall in 1997.

Europe, the Osborne austerity agenda and politicians egos will be the challenges that will face the government in what is now likely to be a ten years stretch in power.

This week’s Tory conference was the first in what will be a series of beauty contests for the leading role, as David Cameron somewhat prematurely announced he would be stepping down following his second stint in number ten.

The main contenders are Boris, Teresa May and George Osborne. With what many would describe as an impressive handling of the economy; his Northern Powerhouse initiative; and the general acceptance that he ran the successful election campaign back in the spring, the chancellor is clearly seen as the favourite.

However, the one thing history does tell us about the Tories is that they don’t often do the obvious when it comes to electing leaders – and favourites are usually left shell shocked as party members look for something a little bit different.

Margaret Thatcher came from nowhere to succeed Edward Heath in the mid-seventies. Heseltine and Portillo were much more favoured than Major and Hague. Who would have thought Iain Duncan Smith could win a raffle, never mind the top job as leader of Her Majesty’s official opposition, and David Cameron was the outsider when he succeeded Michael Howard.

If I was a betting man I would still put my money on George. But don’t write off the chances of lesser known candidates in the field, and keep a particular eye on business minister and West Midlands MP Sajid Javid.

Cameron Setting himself up for a Fall?

Cameron Prime Minister Questions

Prime Ministers Questions has been a bit of a pantomime for some considerable time now. John Major was probably the last PM who actually tried to answer questions put to him by his parliamentary colleagues at the, back then, twice weekly event – and look what happened to him!

Tony Blair, who hated ‘PMQs’, reduced the session to once a week, and over time became a master at using the occasion to simply point score off his political opponents, whilst managing friendly questions from his own backbenchers.

Gordon Brown continued little from Blair’s New Labour style of government; but he too seldom addressed questions directly from the dispatch box and he was as adept as his predecessor at batting away any challenging scrutinising from MPs, albeit with a far less charm.

David Cameron has carried on with this unfortunate tradition and practice since becoming Prime Minister in 2010, and following his victory on May 7th has adopted a style that was described by Labour’s acting Leader Harriet Harman this week as “gloating”, telling him to “show a bit more class.”

I have to say that I have been surprised by Cameron’s tone at PMQs, as he takes every opportunity to patronise and tease Labour members in a way that may be fitting for a dormitory bully at a public school, but is hardly befitting of the country’s leader.

I hope that this new found sneering approach is a temporary aberration, born out of a victory that one senses he still can’t quite believe. Sooner rather than later his own backbenchers will be harrying him over the EU, immigration, the human rights act and who knows what else. Members from all sides of the house will only enjoy his discomfort just that little bit more if he continues to act with the pomposity that he is demonstrating right now.

He would do well to remember the phrase ‘be kind to people on your way up the ladder…