Political Promise

Dave’s Do or Die Election

In Jonny Roberts on April 19, 2010 at 8:10 am

If Cameron can’t secure an outright majority, he’ll be hung out to dry.

12 months ago The Economist, along with everyone else covering British politics, was proclaiming with confidence the Camerons would be waving, cheerily, from the steps of 10 Downing Street about to take up residence with a clear majority killing off Gordon Brown’s disparate government after 13 year in power. Now the picture to adorn the front pages on the morning of May 7th is less clear.

Labour supporters had long clung to the hope that as an election date neared the Conservative’s policy would suddenly come under the critical microscope of the media after David Cameron’s relatively untroubled 4 years as Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition however even they could be forgiven for feeling it was all just wishful thinking. Their dreams appear to have come true; since the turn of the decade the Tories have been faltering in the polls.

As the Tories begun unleashing their policies in key areas they must have imagined this was the beginning of the end of Labour’s time in power, a countdown to reclaiming their positions opposite their current seating arrangements in the House of Commons but it hasn’t been that easy. Labour has picked the Tories’ policies apart with their statistic-heavy dossiers of counter-campaigning and their promotional materials have been ruthlessly remodelled in unflattering style by left-leaning social networkers. In short, the gloss has been knocked off.

We shouldn’t be totally perplexed, Labour haven’t won the past three elections by mistake, they’ve won it through savvy and meticulous campaigning. The Tories have splashed Lord Ashcroft’s cash across the nation in the form of billboard posters only to see them re-appropriated as part of an anti-Tory campaign user-inspired, Saatchi & Saatchi (Labour’s PR company) driven. Even bullying allegations against Gordon Brown haven’t seemed to dent Labour’s chances – the voters already don’t like Brown, its Cameron they seem to trust less and less. Where this leaves Britain is, potentially, weeks away from its first hung parliament since the 70’s. This has sent the pulse racing of journalists mulling over coalitions, ‘constitutional niceties’ (as Nick Clegg puts it) and marginal seats. Where that leaves Cameron is a question that hasn’t been asked half as much but must be racking the Conservative leader, once so assured of his place as Britain’s next Prime Minister, with nerves.

This was Cameron’s election for the taking, Labour (in particular Brown) looked tired, divided and failing even before the economy went ‘bust’ like it hadn’t since the 30’s. Yet as the election nears the voters seem reluctant to trust Cameron and his party. Perhaps too many still bear grudges against their 18 years in power prior to 1997 or perhaps it’s the perception of the Old Etonian Cameron as ‘posh’, it may of course just be that the public doesn’t like what they hear, after it when its been coherent its been cries of ‘cuts’ and the rest of the time its been far less clear. If Cameron cannot secure the majority that was once rightfully deemed his, the party will want blood.

Since John Major was ousted by Tony Blair the Tories have seen more leaders than elections. Hague was out of a job when he could barely make an indent on Labour’s seat count in 2001, then Iain Duncan Smith was ousted before even facing the electorate, the polls worried the party too much. Michael Howard did better but left in 2005 knowing his success was more to do with voters falling out of love with Blair than embracing him. If a hung parliament occurs and Cameron can win the right to lead a minority government (that’s a huge ‘if’ considering the more obvious Lib Dem choice for any coalition) he will be expected to call another election in autumn 2010 or Spring 2011 to win increased endorsement from voters, in the form of a working majority, for the early months of his premiership. If he fails that, he’ll be gone. If Labour and the Lib Dems can come to some agreement to form a coalition government, leaving the Tories in opposition, Cameron, similarly, will be asked to walk. To put it simply, this is still an election Cameron probably cannot lose but it is a much more desperate fight for a majority he must win.  

Jonny Roberts

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  1. I think it will be interesting to see the reaction to Cameron regardless the result, it has not been the election any of us envisaged – old habits do indeed die hard.

    I think the point you make about not trusting the old etonian is a valid one however is magnified 100x when both Cameron and Osborne are seen together (something which is occuring less and less now)… such as in this picture; http://jeremyrowe1.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/cameron-osborne.jpg

    This image sums up for everybody why they do not trust a Conservative government, they dont represent change they way they should have. Ken Clarke should have been given a much more prominent role thus helpng to secure their base but it hasnt happened and its too late for change now. I suspect it will still be enough to give the Conservatives power of some sort however it will severely reduce any honeymoon Mr. Cameron would have been hoping for.

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