Happy House of Commons holiday

Conservative MPs will be taxed by the pool-side by the scale of their task in 2015

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With Parliament now in recess, let us imagine what MPs might think about had they any time on the beach or by the pool (which of course they do not, so ceaselessly do they toil the better to represent their constituents).

The Prime Minister is said to have ended the parliamentary term with a fresh bounce to his step. “The deficit is down; unemployment is falling; crime is down; welfare is capped and Abu Qatada is back in Jordan,” as David Cameron summarised it in his final Punch and Judy bout of the season at Prime Minister’s Questions. Labour’s opinion poll lead seems to have tightened a little – although the ICM poll this week showing the parties neck and neck should be regarded as an outlier. And the signs are that the blood is beginning to flow again in the frozen limbs of the economy.

However, the one thing that Conservative MPs might consider, had they the time this summer, is just how hard it will be for them not just to win the next election but even to remain the largest party. To do so, the Tories must focus on Labour’s historically strong ground – schools and hospitals – rather than on Ukip and “banging on about Europe”.

The danger for the Conservatives of this week’s bitterly partisan exchanges on the failings of the NHS is that it will undermine confidence, which might cause voters to revert to stereotypes, namely that the health service is not safe in Tory hands. By the time Labour has been out of power for five years, it will be hard to lay the blame for poorly performing hospitals.

On schools, it was Nick Clegg and David Laws who made the running this week – a useful reminder that the junior coalition members can still help both themselves and their partners by presenting the Liberal Democrats as a moderating influence in a government that might otherwise be excessively ideological.

For Labour MPs, the question of how best to exploit the Tories’ two-step must be a priority for pool-side consideration. But so, too, must be the more painful question of trade union affiliation.

With so much food for thought, we wish all MPs a hard-working summer.

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