If he becomes Prime Minister, he will not have the luxury of vagueness. Cameron launched first part of his election manifesto.
1. Conservatives are leading the Labour Party in the polls. Does Cameron’s leadership contribute to this is crucial or would you say other factors are more important?
2. What is his weakest point/s and what about his biggest asset/s?
3. Assume he will win the next election. How do you think he will change UK?
Sally McNamara, Senior Policy Analyst, European Affairs, The Heritage Foundation
1. Under David Cameron’s leadership, the fortunes of the Conservative Party have been transformed. Certainly he can take some personal credit for this turnaround. He is seen as a young, dynamic leader with strong leadership qualities. It must be remembered however that the dramatic fall in support for the Labour Government has given the Conservative Party the space to put forth its case. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is a hugely unpopular leader who has lurched from crisis to crisis. The demise of his Government is invariably linked to the Conservatives regaining political momentum.
2. David Cameron is young, dynamic and able to make a decision and stick to it. He also has a strong ‘human touch’ where he can relate to ordinary voters and talk about issues that matter to them. In comparison, Gordon Brown looks out-of-touch, tired and his party appears rudderless most of the time. Being leader of the opposition is far easier than being Prime Minister though. David Cameron has been deliberately vague on many questions, especially Britain’s relationship with the EU. If he becomes Prime Minister, he will not have the luxury of vagueness.
3. It remains to be seen how radical David Cameron will be if he becomes Prime Minister. It will also depend on the size of his parliamentary majority. The big questions dominating his agenda will be hospitals, crime, Afghanistan, Iran and the EU. He has already said that he will not let matters rest if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified. If he renegotiates Britain’s relationship with the EU, he will be seen as a very radical Prime Minister. However, he is unlikely to reveal minute details of his manifesto this far in advance of the general election.
Stephen Ingle, Professor, Department of Politics, University of Stirling
Cameron is a puzzle. The last few Tory leaders – Heath, Thatcher, Major, Hague and Howard have been from the middle class. Even Duncan Smith was a former soldier, not the scion of some wealthy family. Cameron and most of those around him represent a throwback to the days when the Tories were managed by wealthy aristocrats. At present the party represents almost entirely the wealthy South of England, though if he wins the party will ipso facto become more representative, it will still be led by very wealthy, socially privileged people. Why hasn’t this counted (so far) against Cameron? Because Labour is so widely unpopular. This is they key to the Conservative’s strength -the negative response to Labour. Maybe in the election campaign Labour will try to expose Cameron’s privileged life-style and portray him as being unfit to lead a modern party.
However Cameron has shown considerable leadership skill in, for example, minimising the fall-out from the MPs’ allowances scandal, and in managing to give the Conservatives the appearance of being a compassionate party anxious to improve the health service and to benefit the less well-off generally. Under Thatcher the party got the nickname ‘the nasty party’.
Will he change the UK if elected? Let me select three areas: administration, the devolved system of govt and Europe. In respect of administration, he claims he will cut red tape and free up local initiative, giving power to school head teachers for example, abolishing ‘quangos’, incentivising small businesses. Generally decentralising government. But Blair promised all that so I’m not going to be holding my breath, but if he did half of what he says, we would feel the difference. In respect of devolution, there are potential problems. The Tories are very unpopular in Scotland and the Scottish Nationalists would certainly try to pick a fight with Westminster and, with a Tory govt, that might make more Scots favour independence. Cameron is aware of this of course but… Finally Europe. Many of Cameron’s supporters are anti-EU at heart and many more, the great majority, think European integration has already gone too far. It was the Europe issue that broke Thatcher and Major and consigned the Tories to their longest period in opposition for almost 100 years. Calls for a referendum on Europe might be difficult to resist and if Cameron fudged the issue in the forthcoming election he might find the anti-EU UKIP party eating into his vote. That might make it difficult for him to win an outright majority. Under Cameron the UK will almost certainly be even less enthusiastic about European integration than Labour was. Maybe dangerously less, and this in turn could become an internal fissure in the party – again.
So far Cameron has shown a very good TV image, and seems to have the ‘common touch’ which Brown so obviously lacks. He has a quick wit and a good sense of humour. But winning a good majority will prove very difficult, unless Labour collapses completely. People do not love Cameron, and the image of him cycling to the House of Commons but being followed by a limousine carrying all his papers was widely ridiculed and could provide Labour with a strong weapon: this man is all talk and no substance whereas Brown is, if boring, at least solid, competent, reliable and experienced. Maybe Labour is so unpopular this won’t work, but there are still months to go. But if he does win, as seems likely, there is one thing I guarantee: there will be no dancing in the streets and talks of a ‘new dawn’ as when Blair was elected.
How do you think David Cameron will influence EU politics?
Simon Usherwood, Senior Lecturer, Department of Politics, University of Surrey
Assuming the Conservatives win, I would imagine that there would be little impact immediately, for two reasons. Firstly, the EU is going through a relatively quiet period, now that Lisbon is ratified, so there are no big decisions coming up. Secondly, Cameron will want to concentrate his efforts in other issues, such as economic recovery and reform of public services. The EU is not a particularly important issue for most voters, so he will not want to waste time and effort on something with little political benefit.
However, the Conservative party is increasingly opposed to further integration and might try to force some symbolic act, such as the idea of a Bill to put any further treaty modification to a referendum. Cameron would then need to decide how far he will go in letting this happen.
The other big problem is that other European leaders already have a poor impression of Cameron, after his actions on Lisbon and the suspicion that he tried to do a deal with Klaus on ratification (Klaus quickly worked out that such a deal would have only been bad for him). This will make building relations with France and Germany more difficult, which may make future cooperation in areas such as foreign policy more problematic. Cameron lacks the kind of European contacts that Blair and Brown had, so my guess would be that the UK would be a quiet partner for at least a year.
Of course, if it ends up with a coalition government between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, then the Lib Dems might push for a more positive EU policy, although I would imagine that this would not come to much, given the scepticism of the Conservatives that I’ve already mentioned.
Filed under: Europe, Politics, UK politics Tagged: | British politics, Conservative Party, David Cameron, Labour Party, Sally McNamara, Simon Usherwood, Stephen Ingle, The Heritage Foundation, United Kingdom