Thursday, June 28, 2012

David Cameron - under attack from all sides


In an important and informed article in The Daily Telegraph today Peter Oborne describes the damage that the Tory Right is inflicting on David Cameron and who and what is behind it. A key player is Lord Ashcroft (pictured with the Prime Minister)

It has seemed to me for some time that the Tory right opposition to Cameron whilst extra constitutional is immensely damaging to him. This is for two reasons. Cameron’s hinterland beyond the Tory Party is negligible – all of his adult life has been spent professionally and privately in Conservative circles. In a sense this is his family. John Major at least had his cricket to fall back on when the going got tough and this interest brought with it friendships (e.g. with Colin Cowdrey) that provided some solace. Cameron seems not to have this. The North Oxfordshire set, as we have seen, is a pretty depressing bunch and the social support they provided was based as much on self-interest as anything! Now even that has gone – for reasons we all know well. So Cameron seems desperately lonely as a significant part of his Tory family has turned against him. Similarly the Rose Garden love-in with Clegg has turned sour – this is also in part attributable to the Tory right’s distaste for the whole Coalition project. The second reason for the damage is that a Cameron who is being daily bombarded with criticism from those, like Lord Ashcroft, from whom he might have expected loyalty and support is vulnerable to attack from the constitutional opposition – the Labour Party.

Ed Miliband, as Peter Oborne has pointed out in the past, took a while to settle in as Labour leader but he has been increasingly impressive in recent months. Cameron, weakened by the Tory right, has opened himself up to criticism from Labour – not least about the extraordinary series of U-Turns that his Government has performed. As he shifts to the right Cameron will become all the more vulnerable from Labour and whilst it is possible that Right Wing populism (driven by Ashcroft and Murdoch and their organs) might catch the public mood this seems unlikely. And in his own dysfunctional political family there is a key element, those tempted by UKIP, for whom nothing that Cameron will do will be enough.

David Cameron is caught between a rock and a hard place. The Real Politick of Europe is such that he cannot really adopt the Eurosceptic agenda that his critics from the Right insist upon. Remember that almost daily the Foreign Office Sir Humphreys will be insistent that it is not in the national interest further to rock the EU boat. Nick Clegg will be saying the same. And Clegg will also realise that the only possible way that his Party can recover any credibility is to paint themselves as the Government’s conscience - and that certainly doesn’t mean supporting an increasingly Right wing agenda. So it is difficult to see that Cameron can do anything but continue to flounder. Sniped at from Left and Right there is a real danger that like Lord Cardigan at Balaclava he will charge on regardless – and we all know what happened next on that occasion!


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