Editorial: Don't heed the right's siren song, Mr Cameron

Share
Related Topics

The Eastleigh by-election result prompted a slew of predictable reactions. The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, sounded amazed to be celebrating a victory. Nigel Farage insisted the UK Independence Party (Ukip) was about much more than Europe. And with Labour making no headway on its general election showing, Ed Miliband admitted he had more work to do.

David Cameron's response was less predictable – in words at least. With his party's candidate outpolled both by the Liberal Democrats and by Ukip, the Conservative leader was bombarded with exhortations to turn right. To his credit, Mr Cameron rebuffed them. In an article for The Sunday Telegraph – house newspaper of the Tory shires – the Prime Minister chose a more statesmanlike course. "The battle for Britain's future," he said, would not be won "in lurching to the right", nor by what he called "lowest common denominator politics".

He seemed to be saying that he would not be panicked into a right turn just because more by-election voters had plumped for a party further to the right than the Conservatives. In one way, that showed as much pragmatism as wisdom. Although Mr Cameron is Prime Minister and his party is the senior partner in the Coalition, he is still in coalition. He cannot operate as though the Conservatives have an overall majority; that option was expressly excluded by the voters in 2010 and reinforced last week by the result at Eastleigh. Mr Cameron must respect that reality.

How politically wise his calculation will prove depends in part on whether Ukip's surge amounts to more than an ephemeral protest vote and in part on how well Liberal Democrat support holds up. The Conservatives may well have to fight the next general election on both flanks; Mr Cameron cannot afford to sacrifice one or other at this stage.

By accident or design, though, the Prime Minister was not the only Conservative to take to the metaphorical hustings this weekend. Even as voters went to the polls in Eastleigh, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, was claiming credit for a sharp fall in net migration. On Saturday, the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond, made headlines, warning that the military could bear no more cuts and that any further economies should fall on welfare.

Then yesterday the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, harrumphed on the BBC's The Andrew Marr Show about the need to tighten benefit conditions for new migrants, while the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, suggested that a Conservative government would sever ties with the European Court of Human Rights. Suddenly, many long-standing gripes of the party's right were being given an airing.

What was unclear was whether this was a matter of senior ministers sensing which way the political wind was blowing and readying themselves, perhaps, to take on Mr Cameron, or whether it represented an evolving strategy that would allow the Prime Minister to take the moral high ground, while delegating the street fighting to willing ministers. Either way, the signals came across as mixed. Communication used to be one of Mr Cameron's strongest suits. To carry conviction, though, the deeds have to match the words.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Science versus religion in the three-parent baby debate

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Kylie has helped to boost viewing figures for the talent show  

When an Aussie calls you a ‘bastard’, you know you’ve arrived

Howard Jacobson
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