Is Cameron actually leading the Conservative Party?

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I’m really starting to wonder. Readers might recall earlier in the year that I pointed out that Cameron could not command majority Tory support for their manifesto commitment for a substantially elected House of Lords and failed to persuade them to back his stance on the Sexual Orientation Regulations. This week, we find party’s MPs running riot over the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill, and going bonkers over David Willets repudiation of Grammar Schools.

Most bizarrely of all, Cameron has chosen to take a firm line on the latter, but go all soggy and wet over the former. He might not have deliberately set out to make the showdown on Grammars a “clause 4 moment” but he isn’t backing down. Nor should he: neither Willets nor Cameron are arguing for anything that is particularly distinctive from views of the Blessed Milk Snatcher and the fact the Tories are so ready to go to war over such a totemic change is ludicrous.

In terms of Freedom of Information, he has firmed his position up to the extent that he is now, cautiously, suggesting that he wouldn’t vote for the Maclean Bill and that he “will act to stop the bill in its current form in the House of Lords,” (my emphasis), but he has given himself enough wriggle room to fit an aircraft carrier inside.

All this despite the fact that the Lib Dems and pretty much all of the media are roasting his ass on the fire on the subject. Why won’t he simply stand up to Maclean and slap the more reactionary elements of his party down?

The answer is, it seems, his Parliamentary Party would just laugh at him. Those cynics among us who always thought this “change to win” guff was empty rhetoric are finding new evidence that the Tories are still the same old reactionary, swivel eyed loons on a nearly daily basis. Cameron’s great achievement of the last 18 months has been to distract the public’s attention from this, not to introduce meaningful change.

It all bodes pretty ill for these disparate policy reviews that are now just weeks from being published. I don’t believe that the edifice that Cameron has constructed can survive many more weeks like this one before coming crashing down, and I’m not at all clear what he can do to prevent it. Will the Conservative Party pull themselves back from the brink and, at the 11th hour, sign up en masse to Cameronism? The portents don’t look good.

4 thoughts on “Is Cameron actually leading the Conservative Party?

  1. The trouble is that there’s a perfectly good precedent – Tony Blair, who carried all before him for over ten years, including one disastrous war, pretty much in the teeth of opposition from his own grass roots. If you want reactionary, just look at John McDonnell. He seemed to be pretty much in fundamental opposition to everything the government has done, yet he was brushed aside easily. Cameron clearly thinks that he can pull off the same trick, and I think he may well be right. It’s certainly going to take a lot more than the ghost of Norman Tebbit to stop him.

  2. You see, that’s where I disagree with you. Cameron is perfectly happy to pick fights on totemic issues such as Grammar schools, but when the issue involves a piece of actual legislation going through Parliament, he buckles and turns the volume down to a whisper. Blair would have confronted the rebellious elements of his backbenches, true, but in truth he had far fewer of them than Cameron has. Cameron can’t even rely on his core frontbench team, it seems.

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