2011 has been a turbulent year. The eurozone crisis has dominated the political agenda not only in the UK and Europe but worldwide. We’ve seen the death of three dictators, military involvement in Libya, the downgrading of the US economy, natural disasters and questions over the future of globalisation and capitalism.
Closer to home there has been the phone hacking scandal and the closure of the News of the World, the riots in the summer and an economy that continues to struggle to get off the ground. All in all, it’s not been the opening 18 months that Cameron and Co. had in mind. Europe was not meant to dominate the agenda. Phone hacking made an unwelcome newspaper topper for weeks, and the riots reminded politicos that all is not well in pockets up and down the UK.
So as the Prime Minster and his advisers look towards 2012, they must be cautious of predicting what will happen and unsure of what to plan for. It seems certain that the crisis in the eurozone will continue to dominate, that is for sure. There will be more summits, more crisis meetings, more warning and (given the record of the agencies so far) more downgrades. Alistair Darling warned earlier this week that the situation was “far more serious” than many realised, and his warning should be heeded; whilst the Christmas period meant the eurozone has been out of sight, it should not be put out of mind.
However if David Cameron learns his lessons from 2011, he has the opportunity to enjoy a successful 2012. Despite all the ups and downs of the last year, he remains popular with the voters. He is as his best when his back is up against the wall, whether he enjoys it or not. Bruce Anderson wrote a great piece in the Telegraph this week as to why Cameron needs to “discover his inner Scrooge”, even if he would rather be Santa.
The statesman like Cameron is far more palatable than the joke-cracking, complacent one who occasionally appears at Prime Minister’s Questions. When he is grave, serious and honest about the problems being faced by the country, he wins voters over. The Tory right may not be completely happy with him but they are also aware of the importance of having a Conservative Prime Minister, no matter where on the conservative spectrum he fits.
Ed Miliband continues to fail to make an impression. Try as he might he is seen by the majority as unsure, weak and not someone to trust in times of austerity and financial concern. Labour’s financial shots are still not working, accusing the Government of borrowing too much whilst in the same breath saying they would borrow more. For those who look behind the soundbite, it doesn’t make sense.
So 2012 is a year of potential for David Cameron. His position at the end of this year is stronger than many predicted it would be. Remarkably he has the possibly and the tools at his disposal to build on his position, to take his views to the country and push forward the Coalitions reforms. Agree with them or not, the reforms are at the heart of what David Cameron wants to achieve and he promised to try to implement them.
Cameron and Co should learn from the past year but not focus too much on it. They should look forward to 2012, select the areas they wish to target and make a concerted effort to do so. David Cameron should continue to lead in a dignified and statesman like manner, one which the voters want to see and respond well too. And the Conservatives – and to some extent the Coalition as well – should seek to cement their political position and intentions. If they achieve all this, 2012 could certainly be the year of Dave.