The Conservatives must govern for now, not for 2015

There is no doubt that not winning the general election last year was a big blow for David Cameron, and the Conservative Party as a whole. Failing to gain a majority meant that Cameron’s big plans for changing the country had to be rethought. It was not going to be as plain-sailing as he thought. With the Coalition came compromises, reforms changed and put on hold, and reforms previously considered unnecessary suddenly front and centre – think the AV referendum, or the attempt to reform the House of Lords.

This seems to have had somewhat of a damaging effect on David Cameron’s leadership. There seems to be a sense, coming from Number 10 particularly, that it is better to hold back on major policy changes until 2015, when the hope is that the Conservatives will have won that much coveted majority.

There are two ways to look at this, and consequently two ways the situation could pan out. The first – the ideal situation for the Tories – is that they win a majority in 2015, shed the Lib Dems who are holding them back and push forward with serious reforms. All the policies that currently have the start date for change set for 2015 will come into force, and the party will push reforms on multiple fronts. Cameron will be hailed as a great reforming Prime Minister, and will help to reform some of the country’s most incomplete policies and systems.

The alternative is that, come 2015, the electorate have run out of patience with a Prime Minister who promises great reform but never delivers because he is tied into a Coalition, and is afraid of rocking the boat. Cameron’s five-year reign at the helm of the Coalition will be remembered as a time when he promised a lot but delivered little; when he became too tied down with Coalition debates to push on with important reform; and when he over-confidently thought he would be granted another term by the public.

It is, of course, impossible to tell at this stage which way the next election will go. There are still four years, and a lot could happen. The Coalition has promised great reforms, but to be effective it needs some of them to happen sooner rather than later. Whilst spending cuts are becoming more noticeable, the transforming reforms are still a future event, much lauded but not much seen.

The move from inside No.10 to hold out for a majority in 2015 is a gamble, and one that has a strong chance of backfiring. There are four years to go, not one. There is a lot of governing still to be done, and a lot of time for things to change. Tory backbenchers – not afraid to speak their minds – will become more and more frustrated and impatient. Rebellious votes within the Tories are already extremely high, and as frustration grows, these will become more frequent events.

David Cameron must not assume that he will win in 2015. He must make decisions and changes now. The proposals the Coalition are making are far-reaching and transforming – transforming systems that are desperately out of date, and have slipped far below where they should be. But as long as Cameron holds off on the big changes until he has a big majority, he will look weak and afraid. He is – Coalition or not – in charge. He is the Prime Minister, and he has a majority, even if it is not as strong as he would like.

For the sake of Cameron’s reputation and the Conservative Party, it is important that the next four years are a time of reform and of progress, not of stagnation and of treading water. Leaders who tread water for too long sink quicker than they expect. The time for David Cameron to act is not, not in 2015.

This entry was posted in Party Politics and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Conservatives must govern for now, not for 2015

  1. Nick Denys says:

    Interesting. I am a reformist at heart and agree that it is important that many of these reform happen now BUT I’m probably in the minority. At the moment, with the economic downturn, most peoples priority is security. I don’t sense a great demand for reform or desire to hold the Conservatives to account for making radical reforms.

    Having said all that I agree with the general argument of the blog that Cameron must govern today, not hope for a majority tomorrow.

  2. The Country is desperate for reform and a radical approach to our running of the economy.

    It is apparent that the Tories are transfixed by 2015, although making a good start they are now following public opinion slavishly rather than leading it.

    I believe this will badly backfire when the economy doesn’t grow, the unemployed increase and they are forced into more spending cuts.

    They need to be more courageous and abandon short term popularity and do what is best for the Country and not the Tory party.

  3. Dennis says:

    I think you play down too much the achievements and reforms being carried out:

    Michael Gove’s education reforms look to be well on track.
    Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms are well underway.
    Housing benefit reform
    Cutting red tape is agreed policy – not sure how far they have got
    Raising basic tax threshold to £10,000 well under way
    Cutting Corporation Tax
    Publishing public sector spending over £500 pounds
    A credible deficit reduction plan – (this achievement should not to be underestimated)

    All this lot (and more) in one year is a remarkable achievement in my view. I recognise there have been setbacks (U-turns) as well but enormous reforms are being achieved. Contrary to ‘damaging effect on on David Cameron’s leadership’ I have read a number of articles effectively praising his leadership and to me he seems to be doing a good job. The fact he is being criticised by both the right and the left indicates he has probably got things about right – i.e he occupies the middle ground. So I don’t agree with the premise of the article.

  4. Dennis – I largely agree with you in that if we think these reforms are necessary we should get on with them (I sort of wrote about that here). I think there’s a separate argument to be had on whether the Tories have sufficiently prepared the ground for them though… And you’re right, if there’s criticism from both left and right, the Coalition is probably doing a pretty good job of navigating a centrist position!

    Richard Calhoun – I don’t agree, really. The Tories were absolutely prepared to be LOATHED at this stage (and beyond) – yet somehow the polls are holding up not too badly. I think this is in large part because people who voted Tory were clear on what they were getting – and it’s being delivered. I think – again – there’s an argument to be had about whether enough was done on the more radical reforms, and indeed whether anything other than fixing the deficit was really spelled out in sufficient detail. But I don’t agree that they’re slavishly following public opinion.

    More generally, I think James is right that the Tories can’t just focus on 2015 – they need to ensure that they are seen as competent, caring, delivering and trustworthy all the way through till then as well. My old boss used to say you can’t put lipstick on a pig. I would not – at all – say that the Tories’ performance until 2014 is going to be pig-like, but you can’t win elections if you are seen to only be doing the right thing when it’s time to ask for votes. You need to deliver in the long-term as well.

Add Comment Register

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>