Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Saturday, 4 August 2012

David Cameron is now weaker than John Major

I'm not even talking about the fact that he has not been able to persuade his backbenchers to support a key plank of the coalition agreement, although that is pretty weak.

I'm referring to how he has steadfastly refused to move George Osborne from the Treasury brief. It has demonstrated just how hidebound his political room for manoeuvre has become.

I understand those who say Osborne is one of Cameron's oldest political friends. But Blair was old friends with Peter Mandelson and David Blunkett and he did what was necessary to remove them from their cabinet posts when the time came. And even John Major had the guts to remove Norman Lamont as Chancellor when it became clear he was a political liability in that role.

Most observers agree that Osborne has performed poorly as Chancellor. His budget earlier this year was a political disaster. Worse, Cameron knew it would be (specifically regarding the reduction of the 50p rate - he didn't want to do it) but gave Osborne enough rope to hang himself with. Now that he has done so, instead of letting him swing he has cut the rope and is giving him his undeserved political support.

Even worse still, other Prime Ministers just over 2 years into a parliament would likely have at least one more chance to remove an errant minister as reshuffles can be fairly frequent when one party is in power. But the nature of the current coalition makes it pretty unlikely there will be any more reshuffles before 2015. So this is the one chance that Cameron has to put someone politically and economically competent into No 11 (e.g. Philip Hammond) and he has flunked it.

Prime Ministers need to have a shaft of steel running through them. No matter who were close allies on the way up, a politician that wishes to retain power needs to be unsentimental about friendship. That he feels unable to do anything about Osborne demonstrates how weak he has now become.

When even John Major was able to do things you cannot it is surely time to think long and hard about your long term political strategy?


Tom Mein said...

I notice that your last six political blogs have generated a total of 12 comments and 7 of them were on one blog.
Your views are hardly packing the people in are they?
Bit like your voter base?

Duncan Stott said...

Mark's blog is must-read for me and comments like Tom Mein's above say far more about the commenter than they do about Mark. I don't always agree with Mark (his previous post on dropping Lords reform was flawed IMO) but his views are interesting, insightful and often novel. Keep it up Mark!

I think Justine Greening would be a savvy choice of Chancellor for Cameron. She has Treasury experience, a background in business and finance, seems competent and not particularly economically ideological. She's from a comprehensive school which would kill off a lot of the 'posh boys running the country' image at the moment. She'd also be the first female Chancellor which would help the Tory appeal to the centre-ground and also massively neuter Balls' highly personalised (and increasingly effective) rhetoric.