In last year's New Year Editorial our big question concerned George Osborne and whether he would use 2008 to become the nation's Chancellor-in-waiting. ConservativeHome's big issue for 2009 is the title of this post.
71% of Conservative members are hoping to see less caution and "grittier" leadership from David Cameron in the coming year. The finding comes from ConHome's survey of 1,816 Tory members, undertaken from 22nd to 28th December, and covered in today's Telegraph. A large minority - 43% - also say they are not yet enthused by David Cameron's leadership. The overall picture, however - as the graphic below shows - is of a membership that is overwhelmingly satisfied with David Cameron and a huge expectation that he will be in Downing Street after the next General Election.
Click on the graphic to enlarge.
Despite the recent narrowing of the polls I have never been more sure that we'll win the next election. Voters will punish Gordon Brown for leading Britain into the developed world's deepest recession. Chances are that a long period of Conservative government will then begin. All over the world - think Blair, Bush, Chirac, Harper, Howard, Schoeder - first-term governments are re-elected. Fair-minded electorates give governments the time to deliver. How will David Cameron use an extended period of government? Will the caution of recent times be maintained or will the caution evolve into a bolder programme?
The scale of Britain's challenges demand a bolder programme. There are too many areas of current Tory policy where caution reigns:
- We promise public spending restraint but the difference between us and Labour is - at most - intended to be less than 1% of GDP.
- We want to import Sweden's successful schools model but without the essential freedom for new schools to make profits if they wish.
- Our promise of a high-speed rail link for northern England won't be delivered for at least twenty years.
- David Cameron's flagship idea of National Community Service is voluntary and would last for just six weeks.
- David Cameron says that he is minded against Jeremy Hunt's draft proposal to end the BBC's monopoly on the licence fee but does support a £6 reduction once the digital handover is complete. £6-a-year is hardly radical.
I don't mean to imply that a Conservative government wouldn't be worth having. On every front David Cameron would take Britain forward. A government with him in Downing Street would finally end the Labour years of spin and squander. We'd get elected police chiefs. Tax simplification. An end to the couple penalty in the benefits system. I just hope - particularly on the economy and social reform - we'll see more boldness.
A final thought on this topic: My tea-bag-in-hot-water theory of political prediction: Just as you never know how good a tea bag is until it's in hot water, it's also true we won't have a conclusive idea about David Cameron's true potential until he's actually elected. Let's hope he's a Whittards' English Breakfast. Happy new year every one.