Two stories today (Wed) have caused me to contemplate an early election.
The first was Tim Montgomerie’s analysis of the right-wing press coming out against Cameron. “At the slightest of opportunities, the Telegraph, Mail, Sun and Express will kick Cameron”. The comments section is terrific fun.
He quotes the manner in which the Telegraph criticises Cameron for blaming Britain for being “responsible for so many of the world’s problems” and advises him to act more like Gordon Brown.
The Mail, meanwhile, is on the attack over the Coalition’s plans for social mobility, while the Sun and Express complain that the government is lavishing money on Pakistan while cutting Britain’s armed forces.
It is the case that the right wing press has turned savagely against Cameron, as a leader, but not necessarily against the Conservative Party.
The second story came when I watched The Daily Politics and saw the authoritive and aggressive manner in which David Davies attacked the government’s confusion over cutting the armed forces, then choosing to take us into a war.
This is not the words of an independent backbencher. There is no diplomacy and no holding back. This man is attacking his own government.
We haven’t even completed the first year of a Conservative government and it’s falling apart. If the full five year term was completed under this leadership then it would be likely that the Tories would be so hated by the end of it that they would be out for another generation or two. They must be aware of this.
However, the Tories have an alternative leader, waiting in the wings: David Davies. The problem is removing Cameron makes it highly unlikely that they will be able to complete their term.
If Cameron were disposed of tomorrow, then a Tory leadership contest would give the Liberal Democrats the excuse they need to extract themselves from the relationship and reinvent themselves as the “real” Lib Dems, under someone like Simon Hughes.
In other words, they will argue that they were badly led by a Tory sympathiser, Clegg, and were not acting according to their true instincts.
The Conservative party may be able to limp along under David Davies doing deals with the Liberal Democrats, but it would likely make extremely weak government. They may also face a potential annihilation at the polls this way.
However, if Davies was selected as leader and then immediately called an election, then they would have a good chance of either returning to government or of keeping enough seats to fight another day.
So the question is, would the Conservative Party be ruthless enough to follow such a counter-intuitive course as to put themselves at high risk of losing power?
I think that politics is miserable for the Tories right now. I think they’d rather be a united government-in-waiting than an incompetent government in power.
We should prepare.