Conservative Diary

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Cameron proves he's a winner

by Paul Goodman

A simple point for the morning after the resounding defeat of AV and some excellent local election results.  Unlike most of his post-war predecessors as a Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron hasn't won a general election (at least yet).  This has been one of the main sources of tension between him and his Parliamentary Party since last May, because he's lacked to date a certain legitimacy that comes only with a Tory majority in the Commons.

Until yesterday.  He still doesn't have that Conservative majority on the green benches.  But he is this morning what he wasn't last May - a winner.  Backing the No campaign to the hilt was a gamble: don't believe those who say that Britain was always going to reject AV, and remember those big Yes poll leads of not so long ago.  It has paid off, and his Parliamentary Party will look at him today in a new light.

And just as Cameron has gained authority, Clegg has lost it, perhaps permanently. The AV referendum was his main gain in the coalition deal, and he picked the timing of the poll.  The Liberal Democrat dream of electoral reform is off the table for the forseeable future: AV is a goner, and Miliband won't back fully-fledged proportional representation.  In this case, what makes Clegg weaker leaves Cameron stronger.

With his position strengthened, the Independent claims this morning that he will deny Clegg an elected second chamber - which may please David Davis, who writes in Comment this morning - while the Daily Telegraph reports that Downing Street will make changes in the Department of Health.  Of course, he isn't the only Party leader with a new lease of life this morning: how will he deal with Alex Salmond's victory in Scotland?  But he has one, none the less.  Today, Cameron is a winner.


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