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A quick summary of the Cameron years

FourYearsToday is the fourth anniversary of David Cameron becoming the leader of the Conservative Party. What has happened over those four years? A quick summary...

  1. Labour and the Liberal Democrats (twice) have changed leaders.
  2. The worst recession in the G20 has ended Labour's reputation for economic competence.  "Terminado" as (I think) they say in Spain.
  3. George Osborne has emerged as the second most important member of the Conservative Party. Cameron's campaign manager against David Davis, George Osborne is the Chancellor-in-waiting at a time of massive economic challenge and also co-ordinator of general election strategy. They plan to run government together, from a joint Downing Street HQ.
  4. 'Friends of Dave' run the leader's office and control CCHQ. Cameron has a total grip on the Tory machine.
  5. But beyond the inner machine he has re-created the Tory big tent, inviting Ken Clarke, William Hague and IDS back to leading roles. Although not one of life's haters, no MP who has fallen out with Cameron has yet been rehabilitated. Think of Brady, Davis, Field, Jenkin and Mercer.
  6. David Cameron has consistently pursued his modernisation of the Conservative Party. The Party is greener, gentler, more gay-friendly, much more civil libertarian, transformed in its attitude to the NHS and will have sixty to seventy female MPs if it becomes Britain's next government. 
  7. Cameron is an authentic, full-spectrum conservative (supporting the Union, marriage, deficit reduction and conservation of the natural environment and historic liberties).
  8. He has made three big mistakes as leader: (1) pursuing an unbalanced über-modernisation until the summer of 2007 when rebalancing was necessary (picking a fight with the grassroots on grammar schools was the lowest point of that period); (2) making a promise on the Lisbon referendum that could and should have been better worded; and (3) sticking to Labour spending plans long after it was obvious that they were unaffordable.
  9. He has developed three big positive reasons to vote Conservative (1) radical schools reform that will be overseen by Michael Gove; (2) a reform of welfare and family policy that hopefully will be part of Iain Duncan Smith's proposed role; and (3) a programme of corporate tax reform that George Osborne will unpack in office.
  10. Despite a recent softening in the Conservative vote the party remains on course for victory at the next General Election. The party has a better election machine, more activists, more money and the emergence of anti-Labour tactical voting should mean that any Tory majority is bigger than seat projection models suggest. It needs, in the time that remains, to avoid too much politicking. Some policies (like the effective scrapping of the FSA) appear to be tactically-driven.
  11. If there is a Tory majority the parliamentary Conservative Party will be transformed. At least half will be new MPs. Most of them cut their political teeth under Margaret Thatcher and strongly follow her instincts although, as newbies, will be very loyal to the Cameron project in its early period of office.
  12. A Conservative government could be a very unpopular government very quickly. Tory deficit-reduction plans remain very vague and 73% of grassroots Tories fear that there will be too much reliance on tax increases. David Cameron has not converted his party to the climate change issue. The issue of global warming - alongside Europe - has the potential to cause most internal party tension in the years ahead.
  13. If the next few fiscally-painful years can be negotiated successfully there is a real possibility of political realignment in Britain. Twinning traditionally popular Tory messages on tax, crime, Europe and immigration with authentically conservative messages on social justice, civil libertarianism and conservation could be a very potent electoral cocktail... that might just be emulated by centre right parties across the world. Let's hope so.

Have I missed anything important?

Tim Montgomerie

7pm: Over on CentreRight, Louise Bagshawe adds a 14th observation; winning lots of elections!


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