Leading article: Five solid years, but still much to prove

Related Topics

It was five years ago today that David Cameron, standing as an outsider, was elected to lead the Conservative Party. Now, it seems in some ways as though he has held that job forever, so comfortable does he seem in the role and so smoothly has he graduated from Opposition leader to Prime Minister. Yet he still seems the fresh new leader who bounded on to the stage and captivated his party conference with a pitch-perfect candidate's speech, delivered extempore. He remains youthful, engaging, and yes, to an almost infuriating degree, someone who was born to rule.

As a politician, Mr Cameron has also been exceptionally fortunate. Whereas everything Gordon Brown touched seemed to turn to dust once he had finally reached No 10 – including the economy, which had been his pride and joy – everything Mr Cameron touched, except England's World Cup bid, turned to gold. Even the personal tragedies – and we say this with no cynical intent – devolved to his political advantage.

Caring for a severely handicapped son gave him a human dimension and made him reliant on the NHS and other public services in a way that someone of his wealthy background might not otherwise have been. Ivan's sudden death accentuated his human qualities – and coincidentally removed a plank from the Liberal Democrats' planned election platform; they had intended to attack Mr Cameron for being remote from ordinary voters' concerns. The birth of his daughter, during the family holiday in Cornwall, not only produced stunning pictures, but helped quell pre-conference criticism of the coalition deal from inside his party.

Mr Cameron might be a fortunate politician, but he has also helped make that good fortune, with a shrewdly calculated embrace of risk. He decided to stand for party leader, and campaign as a moderniser, although David Davis was seen as the strong front-runner. He rewrote the agenda for the 2008 party conference at a moment's notice to take account of the financial crisis. His most conspicuous gamble, however, was his effort to turn the party's disappointing election result into a victory, by making his "big, open and comprehensive offer" to the Liberal Democrats, and making it boldly and in public.

So far, in his terms, that gamble has paid off. The country has its first coalition government since the war, and by and large the public has taken to the new politics, even if some of the party faithful on either side have not. In party political terms, the alliance with the Liberal Democrats has given Mr Cameron an alibi to be more liberal and less in hock to the party's right wing than he might otherwise have been. To date, largely because of the university fees issue, it is Nick Clegg, far more than Mr Cameron, who is feeling the heat.

In all, a positive report card for Mr Cameron, whose generally sunny disposition has also been an asset in these straitened times. The very ease with which he has taken to being Prime Minister, however, has the potential, if he is not careful, to turn into a liability. The Bullingdon air of being born to rule is never far below the surface. Fluency can tip over into glibness. And vultures are gathering around a host of policies, not just tuition fees, but timidity towards the banks and the malign effects of lower benefits, structural changes to the NHS and public sector cuts, whose wisdom is less evident to the many who will be affected than it is to the mostly privileged individuals on the front bench.

So far, from the Bloody Sunday inquiry to the birth of his daughter, Mr Cameron has shown perfect pitch. Public opprobrium has tended to slide off on to ministers, leaving him to glide serenely on. Suspicions that he is fundamentally a PR man and a lightweight persist. There are few certainties in government, but one is that good times rarely last.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Public Accounts Committee found widespread concern among civil servants that they would be victimised if they spoke out about wrongdoing  

Nikileaks explained: The sad thing about the Nicola Sturgeon saga is that it makes leaks less likely

Jane Merrick
New SNP MP Mhairi Black distinguished herself in Westminster straight away when she made herself a chip butty in the canteen  

The SNP adventure arrives in Westminister - but how long before these new MPs go native?

Katy Guest
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?