Tim Montgomerie: PM ought to focus on his own base – not on Clegg


Related Topics

After David Cameron has given Samantha her morning kiss, the Prime Minister's thoughts turn to keeping Nick Clegg happy. Cameron knows he has a good chance of re-election if he holds his government together until good economic times return. But it will not survive if the Liberal Demo- crats pull the plug before George Osborne's medicine has worked.

The Lib Dems will perform incredibly badly in next month's elections. Clegg's local government base, which sustained his party during the wilderness decades when it had no power at Westminster, is likely to be devas-tated. The party may lose half of its vote in Scotland and Wales. It is also likely that voters will reject electoral reform. Getting AV is the one big thing that could have really sweetened the Coalition for Lib Dem activists. Clegg's party has long hungered for a different voting system, and many more Lib Dem MPs would be elected under AV, transforming the party into routine kingmakers.

In anticipation of these setbacks, Cameron is preparing "Operation Rescue Clegg", a package of concessions including accelerated reform of the Lords and diluted changes to the NHS bill. In an effort to force Cameron's hand, senior Lib Dems are having public tantrums. They want him to fear his government may be on the brink of dangerous divisions.

Cameron should call their bluff. If the Lib Dems were to force an early election they would be annihilated. They'd lose their university seats because of Clegg's "read my lips" U-turn on tuition fees. They'd be wiped out in much of Scotland and northern England where left-wing voters feel betrayed by the Coalition. Polls suggest many of their southern seats would return to the Conservatives. Clegg, Huhne and David Laws could all lose their seats. Cameron must not turn victory in the AV referendum into a strategic defeat. Ninety-two per cent of Conservative members say he has yielded enough to Clegg. Whether it is preventing repatriation of powers from Europe, reducing prison numbers, protecting the Human Rights Act, delaying renewal of Trident, keeping inheritance tax or stopping support for married couples, Lib Dems have done far better in Coalition negotiations than they have been given credit for. This has led to an increasingly unhappy Conservative Party. The idea that a "cuts" programme delights Cameron's grassroots is wrong. All Tories know we must live within our means but austerity does not energise them.

Cameron must stop worrying about Clegg and think more about his own base. Last week's immigration speech suggests he is starting to. The Lib Dems may have nowhere to go but the conservative majority doesn't have to vote Tory. It can drift to Ukip. Middle England's floating voters, not Nick Clegg, should be Cameron's first thought every morning.

Tim Montgomerie is editor of ConservativeHome

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas