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The enemies of the next Conservative government

The last 48 hours and the row over Gordon Brown's letter to Jacqui Janes have been further proof - if such proof was needed - that we live in a very hostile and unforgiving time. One of the greatest challenges David Cameron will face if he becomes Prime Minister is the management of this ungenerous and fast-moving media culture. Groups will be lining up to cause him trouble. He, like Margaret Thatcher before him, needs to pick his battles carefully. His decision, for example, to tackle the education establishment but not the NHS may, for example, be tactically wise. He also needs to do a lot more to reach out to his friends so that he has more strong allies for the big fights that lie ahead. The lack of contact between the party, the wider conservative movement and sympathetic third party groups (encapsulated in the decision to abolish CCHQ's External Relations Department) is short sighted.

Dartboard These are the likeliest enemies. Some are unavoidable but some can and should be squared off in order to avoid tension on too many fronts.

Labour and Liberal Democrats. Unavoidable opponents but not necessarily the principal threats that will shape public opinion.

The public sector trade unions. These would be my candidate for number one opponent. I don't often disagree with The Spectator's James Forsyth but I thought his recent column on how the Tories plan to work with the unions was too optimistic. If the Tories are to reduce Brown's budget deficit there'll have to be blood on the carpet. The unions are ready for the fight. The leader of the postal union leader, Billy Hayes, is already flexing his muscles and warning that he is stronger than the Arthur Scargill. The teacher unions, in particular, are certain to give a Conservative government a massive fight. Hopefully someone has a clear strategy to deal with the unions.

The Left 'netroots'. We haven't yet seen the web really take off as a political force in Britain but the Left in the widest sense will probably rebuild online. With Labour close to bankruptcy we will see a huge number of very cheap but very popular internet-based campaigns - national and very local - against Tory spending cuts. These campaigns could hurt the Conservatives but they could also hurt the Labour Party in the medium term as it is dragged to the radical left by purist internet activists. 

The Left quangocracy. Even if Labour loses elected office next year it will still dominate appointment-land. If the Tories do not take on the Labour placemen in the quangocracy they will attack Conservative initiative after Conservative initiative - always posing as independent third parties.  Hopefully CCHQ have a little list of likeliest troublemakers. There are probably at least fifty Ben Summerskills.

The Left-wing press. The Guardian, in particular, has reverted to anti-Tory positioning in recent times to the dismay of CCHQ.

Scottish nationalism. Privately Alex Salmond knows that independence is unlikely in one more big step but he thinks that a Tory government with very few MPs from Scotland will make his job of winning more powers for himself and the Scottish Parliament a lot easier.

The human rights establishment. If the Tories start to dismantle the human rights legislation of recent times there'll be an almighty row with the legal establishment. There is now talk of this being a second term priority but that will disappoint The Sun, The Daily Mail and other opponents of the "crazy" rights culture.

The climate change industry or energy consumers. One of these groups will end up unhappy. The Tory leadership can keep the climate change industry happy by pursuing expensive renewables and avoiding coal or it can keep energy prices down. Tory members are convinced that energy consumers should be the group we protect.

European leaders or Eurosceptics. Time will tell.

The Conservative base. The base is likely to rally to David Cameron insofar as he's 'our guy' in battles with, for example, destructive trade unions but in a very tough fiscal environment there are going to be few goodies to go round. Tax cuts, for example, will be in short supply. How will he convince the grassroots and The Mail etc that a Conservative government has been worthwhile? Particularly if there is little progress on unwinding Lisbon. ConHome's Shoestring manifesto of ideas is one way forward.

Tim Montgomerie


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