Conservative Diary

« The new ConservativeHome survey | Main | The IMF provides big boost to George Osborne (...and the BBC agrees) »

The deepening Liberal Democrat commitment to the Coalition may mean Cameron has more time to defeat Ed Miliband

By Tim Montgomerie

As I write on LeftWatch, the Tory machine is doing a brilliant job at ruining Ed Miliband's first few days as Labour leader. I'm, nonetheless, aware from comments threads that many readers don't think we should get carried away. They don't like reports of champagne corks popping at CCHQ.

IMG_1247 The danger of underestimating Gordon Brown's successor is part of my argument in a column I've written for today's Times (£)*:

"The silliest thing written in reaction to Ed Miliband’s victory was one columnist’s declaration that “on Saturday, David Cameron won the next general election”. While it’s true that the Conservative leadership was delighted at the more left-wing Miliband’s victory, it is not foolish enough to underestimate him. A man who had the courage to take on his party’s Blairite establishment and his older brother, the early frontrunner, is not going to be a walkover. Ed Miliband harnessed new technology and a targeted get-out- the-vote operation to mobilise his party’s base. Yesterday he took the first steps on a long march back to the centre ground. To the readers of a Conservative-supporting newspaper he promised to champion the “squeezed middle”. A defence of the universal benefits currently enjoyed by higher-income pensioners will be his proof of this promise and is potentially his strongest card. George Osborne’s draft plan to use savings from poorly targeted benefits to help fund welfare-to-work may produce one of the defining battles of this Parliament."

I then go on to examine Ed Miliband's real weaknesses and why Conservatives should be glad that unions chose him, rather than his more dangerous brother.

I also argue that last week's Liberal Democrat conference was almost as good news for Cameron:

"Journalists travelled to the Liverpool gathering of Nick Clegg’s activists in the hope of finding a boiling cauldron of instability. They didn’t. A resolve to make coalition government work, and disprove the idea that hung parliaments are a bad thing, overwhelmed the real anxieties."

Things can change, of course, and the cuts might weaken the LibDems' resolve once they bite. Nonetheless the increasing solidity of the Coalition - reinforced by concessions to Clegg's Left - gives Cameron the opportunity to travel through mid-term unpopularity and fight the next election on a post-austerity platform. That is what Ed Miliband needs to consider. He'll be in a weak position to win that post-austerity election if he spends all of the next two/ three years rejecting the Coalition's economic medicine. Painting him as the candidate of 'no to budget responsibility', 'no to welfare reform', 'no to schools reform' will be as important as the early success in painting Ed Miliband as the unions' man.

* James Forsyth on Coffee House and Mary Ann Sieghart in The Independent also strike cautionary notes for hubristic Tories.


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.