Five very early reasons to be hopeful about Cameron's re-election chances
By Tim Montgomerie
Over the next week ConservativeHome will be looking at seven leading vulnerabilities of the Cameron strategy and operation. Before we start that series it is worth looking at the underlying reasons why the Tories have a good shot at re-election if, if, if the Coalition holds together*. Five reasons stand out to me...
A benign economic cycle. Lots could go wrong with the world economy in the interim but the chances are that the economy will be off the floor and heading strongly upwards by 2013 and onwards. This should see a feel good factor beginning to return by 2014/15 as long as - and this is very important - George Osborne frontloads spending cuts. If, however, measures like child benefit are delayed until 2013 (and beyond), voters may grow tired of austerity.
Ed Miliband's partisan denial of the deficit. In appointing Alan Johnson as Shadow Chancellor the new Labour leader has eschewed the full ostrich position recommended by Ed Balls but it looks unlikely that he will join Cameron's "national interest" party. There's short-run upside for Ed Miliband if he opposes the Coalition's cuts but if the deficit is brought under control and the economy starts to motor he'll be painted by David Cameron as a partisan obstructionist; a politician who ducked the tough choices.
Weakness in the Liberal Democrat vote. If the Liberal Democrats are unable to recover their left-leaning voters they'll face big losses in LibCon and LibLab marginals. MPs like Chris Huhne in Eastleigh will be defeated as left-wing voters who supported him in order to 'keep the Tory out' drift back to the Labour candidate. An analysis by Lord Ashcroft suggests the LibDem position will remain weak, even under AV.
The coming together of the Conservative Party. Earlier in the summer I worried that Downing Street wasn't paying enough attention to the Tory side of the coalition. At times - such as with the enoblement of John Maples - Cameron almost appeared intent on poking loyal members in the eye. In recent times there are signs of improvement. The strong tribute to the grassroots in last week's Birmingham speech. The appointment of Michael Fallon as Deputy Tory Chairman. A birthday party in Downing Street for Lady Thatcher later this week. And most significantly of all, backing IDS on welfare reform and taking charge of saving the defence budget. The improving Downing Street/ party relationship could be tested by the steady flow of concessions to the Liberal Democrats but a united party is a precondition of future success.
The big one nation offering. At the heart of the Cameron project is the transformational idea that the Conservative Party can be restored as the natural party of government if it occupies the whole political stage; adding a concern for the poor and the environment to the tried and trusted messages on tax, crime, immigration, Europe and (fifthly) welfare. Blair destroyed our electoral chances when he invaded our territory. We can do the same in reverse if we build a greener, gentler Conservative Party. If Gove and IDS, in particular, can succeed over the next few years the party can fly high at the next election.
* Current betting is 6/4 for a Tory victory at William Hill.