Leading article: An impression of drift that Mr Cameron must dispel

Share
Related Topics

Opposition from medics' professional bodies was one thing; the most influential Conservative grassroots website weighing in against the Government's NHS reforms is quite another.

But even the ConservativeHome verdict that the Health and Social Care Bill should be scrapped – a view it claims is supported by no fewer than three Tory cabinet ministers – is not the most serious of the Prime Minister's problems.

What should be even more alarming for David Cameron is that the fracas over the NHS is only one of a growing list of Tory rebellions that, taken together, points to a dangerous lack of clarity at the heart of his Government. The risk is that the ability to govern is lost in an endless squall of noisy protests. The question is whether Mr Cameron has what it takes to resolve the situation.

Given his record so far, the prognosis is not altogether promising. Indeed, the health service reforms by themselves must put a serious question mark over Mr Cameron's political judgement. Having used his commitment to the NHS as a totem for the new kind of Conservatism he claimed to represent, as Prime Minister he then looked the other way while his Health Secretary put together a legislative behemoth with little apparent thought to either the political implications or the backdrop of £20bn worth of budget cuts. But critics' calls for Andrew Lansley's head are misplaced: it will take more than the Health Secretary's dismissal to solve the problem.

Similarly, by making a show of using Britain's European veto, only to have the emptiness of the gesture exposed barely more than a month later, the Prime Minister has stoked the ire of the Eurosceptics where he meant to placate them.

Then there is Coalition energy policy, which is also under attack, most recently from 101 Tory MPs calling for dramatic cuts to wind farm subsidies. Given that a government billed as "the greenest ever" has been marked out by its incoherence and backsliding, is it any wonder that Tory naysayers hope to exploit the situation?

The difficulty for the Prime Minister is that this is no single cohort of rebels hammering an unpopular leader any way they can. It is too easy to characterise Mr Cameron's troubles as those of the centrist reformer battling his dyed-in-the-wool right wing when they are no such thing. On both the NHS and Europe, the Prime Minister is well to the right of centre.

Rather, these are three separate questions, drawing fire from backbenchers with very different priorities – from concerns about losing the election, to visceral Euroscepticism, to resentment at concessions to the Liberal Democrats. Each issue is different; each requires a different response. Add in the fact that, unlike most prime ministers, coalition-bound Mr Cameron cannot ease the grumblings of his backbenchers with promises of ministerial jobs to come, and the situation is troublesome indeed.

In fairness, the Prime Minister is in an unenviable position. His scope to act is curtailed not only by the Coalition, but also by the coming general election and by the grim economic conditions. No matter. The common theme behind all the isolated sources of rebellion is the sense of drift at the top. It is this that Mr Cameron must address. And, as leader, it is his job to do so. For the six years since he took over the Tory party, Mr Cameron has sidestepped political clarity. The stresses are starting to show, and the fiasco over the NHS is only the most toxic sign of them. It is time for the Prime Minister to demonstrate real leadership and give his Government a clear sense of direction. He does not have long.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Developer (TSQL, SSRS, SSAS) Fund Manager - London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer (TSQL, S...

Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, Angular.JS)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Software Developer (JavaScript, TDD, Jasmine, An...

Front-End UI/UX Developer (HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, Ang

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End UI/U...

C#.NET Server Side Developer (C#, XML, WCF, Unit Testing,SQL)

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C#.NET ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letters: The West flounders in the Middle East morass

Independent Voices
David Tennant as Hamlet  

To vote no or not to vote no, that is the question... Although do celebrities really have the answer?

David Lister
All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition