Saturday, May 14, 2011

Does Dave actually want a Tory Government?

If David Cameron really wanted a Conservative Government, he should call a snap General Election now.

A year after the Coalition was formed, it’s clear the Tories’ deal with the Liberal Democrats is falling apart.

The two parties face months, if not years, of wrangling over every decision and every piece of legislation.

The Lib Dems look like dead men walking. It’s hard to imaging a way back from their humiliation at the local elections and in the Alternative Vote referendum.

Whatever happens, they will still be viewed by most voters as having propped up a Conservative Government. Nick Clegg will get the blame for unpopular policies; the Tories will get the credit when things to well.

The Prime Minister has the chance to call an election which might well give him the majority Government he failed to secure a year ago.

With the Lib Dems already down, an early election would provide the knock-out blow.

Labour might pick up a few seats at the Lib Dems’ expense but the Tories would gain more.

And Ed Miliband is hardly a credible option as Prime Minister.

If the Coalition actually lasts a full five years, Labour may see sense and replace Ed with another leader – quite possibly his brother David or even Ed Balls.

Either of these would be a more attractive proposition than the present Labour leader and, therefore, a more formidable foe for the Tories.

So with the Lib Dems likely to get another kicking from the voters and Ed Miliband struggling to revive the Labour Party, this is the ideal moment for Mr Cameron to win a working majority at Westminster.

He may recall the autumn of 2007, when newly-chosen Prime Minister Gordon Brown was ahead in the polls and his supporters were urging him to hold a General Election.

There was a good reason for an early poll. Mr Brown arrived at Number Ten thanks to a stitch-up in his own party. He had never faced the voters as party leader and run the risk of defeat.

If he had called an election in October 2007, he might well have secured a full five-year term and seen off David Cameron into the bargain.

He bottled it. Instead, he endured economic meltdown, personal humiliation and electoral defeat.

Mr Cameron’s position is different. For a start, he’s promised us five years of Coalition Government and he would be accused of betrayal if he broke the deal so soon.

On the other hand, few people seriously think the Coalition will last a full term whatever the promises made by Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg at the height of their rose garden romance a year ago.

After their drubbing at the polls, the Lib Dems will seize every opportunity to frustrate, harry and undermine their Conservative partners.

Eventually, as electoral reality bites, there will be plenty of Mr Clegg’s MPs who refuse to follow him any longer. They will walk away from the Coalition.

There may well come a point, long before the five years are up, when the Coalition crumbles away, forcing Mr Cameron to call an early election.

Before then, though, he will have to deal with arguments, dissent and splits not only with the Lib Dems but with his own MPs as well.

There are plenty of Conservatives who dislike the Coalition, despise their traditional Lib Dem enemies and see no reason why they should make further concessions to a party which is so weak politically.

If Mr Cameron insists on “bigging-up” Nick and offering him a few open goals, just to shore up his position as leader of the Coalition’s minority party, many Tory backbenchers will squirm with fury.

Every time the Government pays our money to bail out countries in the Euro, for instance, or abides by absurd human rights rulings, Mr Cameron’s supporters will blame his desire to keep the Lib Dems happy.

This makes the job of running the country – especially the task of trying to revive the economy – increasingly difficult.

For many Conservatives who already think the Lib Dem tail has been wagging the Tory dog, the prospect of following a policy of appeasement for the next four years is hard to swallow.

Mr Cameron could resolve these difficulties by calling an election now. The chances are that he would win an outright majority and set his party free.

It would be a gamble, of course. The alternative is years of confused, incoherent and carping Coalition when what the country needs is clarity and purpose.

Unfortunately for the Lib Dems, Nick Clegg is Mr Cameron’s human shield.

It’s not just that the Deputy Prime Minister protects Mr Cameron from his opponents in the country. His presence in Government also defends Mr Cameron from his Tory critics.

Without his Lib Dem whipping boys, Mr Cameron would be exposed. He’s happier leading a Coalition than a Conservative Government with a clear working majority.

So he will struggle on for as long as possible – he doesn’t want outright victory at an early election. He might have to introduce genuine Conservative policies and that would never do.

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