Cameron's first issue: An EU referendum
As a result of this election result we will now, almost certainly, have an in/out EU referendum to look forward to in 2017. This has huge consequences. It means that much of Cameron’s time between now and then will be spent trying to cobble a deal together in Brussels that he can put to the British public in the referendum. But whether other European leaders will give him what he needs is far from certain. And whatever they offer will almost certainly not be enough for his own Eurosceptic backbenchers. The Tories are still horribly divided on Europe and this result will do nothing to unite them. It’s going to make John Major’s troubles over the Maastricht Treaty in the 1990s look like a walk in the park.
Cameron's second issue: A tiny majority
Mr Cameron may have won an overall majority – but it is the slenderest of overall majorities and will actually make the Prime Minister’s life harder than when he was in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Then he could rely on votes of the Lib Dems to support him giving the Coalition a majority of 76. Today he has just five and a coalition of opposition parties against him. This is will severely restrict his legislative agenda and make him uniquely vulnerable to rebellions from his own backbenchers. Expect late night, knife edge votes and a grueling five years for all today’s newly elected MPs.
Cameron's third issue: The Scottish Question
David Cameron pledged yesterday to govern for the whole United Kingdom but the triumph of the SNP in Scotland brings the prospect of a second independence referendum that much closer. It is likely that Sturgeon will argue that the new state of affairs – with an anti-austerity party dominating Scotland with pro-austerity Tories running the UK as reason for a new plebiscite soon rather than later. Scottish resentment could be exacerbated if the Tories try and limit the right of SNP MPs to vote on English only laws.
Cameron's fourth issue: Cutting Government Spending
Tory plans envisage swinging cuts to both welfare and departmental budgets and one of Cameron’s first big challenges will be to pull together a spending review – that both keeps their spending commitments and their promises of reducing the deficit. They will have to find more money for health, international development and parts of the education budget which will mean bigger cuts elsewhere. They will also have to finally say how they will cut the welfare budget for working age people by £12 bn.
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