14 February 2010

The Tory party is not ready for government

Now for Team Cameron.  Where to begin?  Let’s start with Michael Ashcroft.

Yesterday, the Telegraph reported that the BBC were planning a Panorama programme on this troublesome man.  If that wasn't bad enough, there are a clutch of articles today that expose Cameron's misjudgement on this not-so-trivial matter.

The Observer summarises the mess that various Tory spokesman have got themselves into over this. The Indy has a good analysis, which concludes with this telling comment:

The Ashcroft affair will not go away. And as long as it remains unresolved, the PM-in-waiting will be hobbled by question marks over his ability to make the most significant judgement calls.

No, it will not go away and Cameron has been left very exposed over something that is entirely of his own making.

Putting that to one side, we now come to the Tory party itself.  This piece provides a timely refresher course on the state of the once ‘natural party of government’.  There are enough unexploded bombs ready to go off, no matter how big or small Cameron's majority will be.

Hopi Sen highlights a post from Paul Richards, where he quotes from Tim Bale’s recent book:

The Tory Party is like a British telephone box, which looks appealing on the outside, but if you open the door it smells really bad.

Now we come to Cameron’s lack of a strategy, which have caused a few too many mistakes to be made in recent weeks.  Fraser Nelson, in his weekly column in the NoTW, paints the picture:

The Conservatives realise there is a problem. They’re in mild panic and having endless debates about what strategy to take.

Positive, or negative? General, or specific? Cautious, or radical? They’re trying to be all six.

Tory MPs look on aghast. For the first time in years, you hear grumblings. One Tory MP, a loyalist, told me mutiny could be in the air. “Half of us only back Cameron because he’s a winner,” he said. “Right now, polls point to a hung parliament. Someone who can’t get a majority against a man as weak as Brown is not a winner.”

Then, there is this from Andrew Rawnsley:

Many Conservatives are resentful, suspicious and sulky about the duo at the top. This is partly style. As successful bids for power often are, the Cameron project is run by a vanguard, the leader and the small clique around him. Tory MPs who do not have the gold swipe card that accesses the inner circle – which is nearly all of them – grumble about his remoteness and arrogance. That is echoed by discontent among Tory activists in the country.

He concludes:

What successful leaders do require is a clear sense of purpose and a committed body of followers. On the threshold of power, David Cameron looks oddly and perilously short of both.

The polling evidence, plus the details behind the headline figures, suggest the Tories will win and for that they have to thank the Labour party and Gordon Brown.  But, this is not a party ready for government.  To quote Alistair Campbell:

Cameron's weakness is that he has failed to do the strategic and policy heavy lifting to persuade the public his party has really changed. The reason is that he knows deep down his party hasn't changed and it doesn't really want to.

The omens for a successful transition to government do not look good.

Cameron’s personality and charisma will carry the Tory party over the line, but there are real doubts that this will be enough once the party is in power.  He doesn't have a strong team to support him, and in the background there is that unreformed party ready to cause him much grief.  Moreover, he will not come into power on the back of overwhelming public support that Blair enjoyed in 1997, which is a fundamental weakness.

This why it is vital that the Labour party must make that all important leadership change after the election.

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