Michael Brown: A Brown exit is Cameron's biggest worry

Share
Related Topics

A year ago this week, the Tories came third in the Ealing by-election. The result followed a disastrous campaign, with "David Cameron's Conservatives", as they were being referred to, falling victim to Gordon Brown's political honeymoon.

The Tory Asian candidate was chosen solely for his media profile and he had no more than a passing association with the party. Pictures of him with Tony Blair at a Labour fund-raiser, days before his selection, plunged the Tories into disarray. The mood of dark depression and introspection presaged by that result continued up to the autumn party conference, and nothing seemed to go right last summer for the Tory leader.

Today, however, all Mr Cameron has to worry about is a stolen bike and, after last night's result in Glasgow East – where even though the Tories again trailed Labour and the SNP – his mood could not be more upbeat. The Tory Asian woman candidate and trade unionist, Davena Rankin, provided a brilliant platform for the Tories to practise their campaigning techniques deep in enemy territory, and also enabled them to showcase their new appeal to poverty stricken Labour voters. While many Tory voters clearly lent their votes to the SNP, the party nevertheless engaged in a spirited campaign. Expect to hear much of Miss Rankin in the future.

There will be no moves against the Prime Minister as the torpor of the silly season takes hold, but Mr Cameron's main worry now is that Labour might still be tempted to dump Mr Brown at a later date. Be sure, however, that if there is any threat to Mr Brown's position, the Tories will be outside Downing Street with the oxygen mask and resuscitation unit. The Prime Minister's survival until polling day is crucial to the Tory general election strategy. Fortunately, for the Tories, as the Labour MP Austin Mitchell said recently, "We're so incompetent we wouldn't know how to carry out a coup".

Mr Cameron leaves for his own summer holiday in Cornwall with a consistent opinion poll lead of 20 per cent and rave reviews from most of the media. His backbenchers will – more or less – allow him to do whatever he wishes so long as the poll lead holds.

Yesterday's rapprochement with the official Unionists offers the serious prospect of a Tory presence in Northern Ireland. Until now, those opposed to Labour have had no effective way of expressing their views. The attempt to set up an integrated Conservative Party in the early 1990s foundered. But now the official Unionists could be the mechanism by which Tory supporters are given a voice – and a vote – posing a credible threat to the DUP who, after bailing out the Government in the vote on 42 day detention, will be painted as Labour stooges.

Even the sideshow of the David Davis by-election saga did not, in the end, rain on Mr Cameron's parade. If he chooses to attend, he can look forward to celebrating the end of the parliamentary session by quaffing champagne with guests at today's civil partnership bash at Merchant Taylors' Hall for Alan Duncan, his shadow cabinet business and industry spokesman.

But if Mr Cameron really wants to give more than just a toaster and his blessing to Mr Duncan, he could perhaps contemplate giving him the Tory party chairmanship as a wedding present. Of all the most pressing matters on Mr Cameron's plate, this is a post that requires immediate attention. Notwithstanding the difficulties experienced by Caroline Spelman – the current occupant of the post – it is reasonable anyway to appoint a fresh face for the final two years before the election. All the engine room, fund-raising and mechanical preparations are successfully in place for the election campaign thanks to the strategic work of George Osborne and Lord Ashcroft. But a public cheerleader in the style of Margaret Thatcher's chairman, Cecil Parkinson, is now required. Nobody does cheerleading better than Mr Duncan and his media skills are second to none.

Other names in the chairmanship frame, also being touted, include the local government spokesman Eric Pickles, who master-minded the Crewe and Nantwich by-election victory. His earthy style won plaudits as he turned the tables on Labour's doomed "Tory Toff" tactic. Mr Pickles convinced voters that Labour were so out of touch with their own voters that "they're going round canvassing in top hats and tails".

A dark-horse contender could be the up-and-coming environment spokesman, Greg Barker, one of Mr Cameron's original supporters when, at the start of the leadership campaign in 2005, the total number of committed Cameroons would have fitted into a taxi with room to spare. Like Mr Duncan, Mr Barker oozes optimism and cheers up everyone who crosses his path.

One of the refreshing aspects of the Cameron leadership is that most of the Shadow Cabinet have now been in their posts for some time and know their briefs. As a consequence, the charge of inexperience is now fading. The other senior figures – including William Hague, George Osborne, Michael Gove, Andrew Lansley and Chris Grayling – have proved more than a match for their Labour counterparts.

The new shadow home affairs spokesman, Dominic Grieve, has eased himself into his role with barely a hiccup. Subconsciously, I find myself looking at these figures not as shadow spokesmen but as likely future secretaries of state. There seems little point in a massive upheaval other than to provide one or two opportunities for bright underlings.

In the run-up to the party conference in Birmingham, there will be media demands to reveal more of Mr Cameron's policy hand. He should probably ignore us. By all accounts, there is now a plethora of policies swirling around Conservative Campaign Headquarters – many with initially expensive price tags. But as it becomes ever more clear that Labour will use its dying days in office to continue profligacy by means of the national credit card, the state of the public finances on day one of Mr Cameron's administration will be dire.

So far, the Tory economic policy has assumed the continuation of economic growth with the magic formula of "sharing the proceeds of growth" between increases in health and education expenditure and reductions in taxation at the heart of the strategy. Now the shadow Chancellor may have to make assumptions on the basis that the public finances will be a disaster of 1979 proportions on polling day. The nightmare scenario will be that 2010 will be the year of budget cuts and even of tax rises. Fixing the broken economy will dominate a first-term Tory government. Fixing the broken society as well will be even more taxing.

mrbrown@talktalk.net

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: Every privatised corner of the NHS would be taken back into public ownership

Philip Pullman
 

Errors & Omissions: Magna Carta, sexing bishops and ministerial aides

John Rentoul
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee