Coffee House

David Cameron and the Tory troubles

9 September 2012

A scoop in the Mail on Sunday: Zac Goldsmith has allegedly told Boris Johnson that if he were to resign over a third runway at Heathrow, then he would encourage Boris to stand in the subsequent by-election (which everyone assumes that the Conservatives would win). Johnson’s aides have rejected the story ‘out-of-hand’, but it has inspired fevered speculation on Twitter, especially among those who dream that Boris is the answer to their electoral prayers. Those voices have also been given air by the revelation that Bob Stewart MP was approached earlier in the summer by a couple of backbenchers to run as a stalking horse against David Cameron.

This prompts the question: if Stewart was to be the stalking horse, who then hopes to be the real contender? The answer to that question is not clear; but the fact that it is being entertained adds to the sense that some Conservatives are planning for the post-Cameron era, rooted in the assumption that the party will be defeated heavily in 2015.

The manoeuvres are beginning, both within and without government if rumours about some cabinet ministers are to be believed. This will make for good sport and increase the likelihood of defeat in 2015, as the public always punishes fractious, self-absorbed parties regardless of the economic situation. For all the cliched talk of ‘lessons learned’ and the ‘desire to win’, the book never quite closed on the Tories’ troubles between 1994 and 2005.

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  • TomTom

    Frankly I think Zac Goldsmith would have more national appeal than Boris Johnson who carries no great weight outside the Metropolitan Area. We are speaking of 3 Old Etonians and of those 3 I believe only Zac Goldsmith (ironically) comes over as having any credibility

  • dalai guevara

    I am not that much of a pessimist with regard to this issue, to be honest.

    What the discussion on avaition has demonstrated, is that we can have an open discussion about issues, rather than the often-despised decision-making processes behind closed doors; the arguments have been exchanged in the open, and we now come to understand that there will be no new decision on Heathrow until after 2015.

    That, frankly will also mean that no one will commit to the Boris Island concept either, as investors require certainty. Thanks Dave for reassuring us of what a doer you are rather than a talker.

  • Russell

    No doubt the media think this is “good sport”, I can assure the writer of this article that the majority of this country do not want “good sport” or a media frenzy about Cameron, all they want is a serious government continuing to sort out the economic mess that Labour left behind.

    • Paddy

      Russell: Hear hear. But this morning we heard from Ed Balls…….stating he could work with Vince Cable.

      I didn’t realise he was so desperate to be back in government that he would be willing to join the coalition. What a catch.

    • itdoesntaddup

      You are quite right. The question is how we get there, since the present government is failing to sort out the mess.

    • dalai guevara

      Russell, do you mind me asking: do you think there is any chance of that happening?

  • Percy

    But what does top strategist George “110%” Osborne make of all this?

  • Publius

    “the public always punishes fractious, self-absorbed parties”

    Does the public also punish fractious, self-absorbed coalitions?

    • Russell

      Or self -absorbed newspapers and journalists?
      I can still remember ALL the press and TV channels licking Blairs backside and Browns boots and praising him as a wonderful chancellor!

  • James102

    The Conservative party went along with the view that only
    members of the political class could successfully run an election campaign. All
    the talk of detoxification sounded good, very PR savvy and of course in line
    with the BBC-Guardian view of the toxic Conservatives.

    They did not allow for the fact that even if the
    Conservative party half believed it they could not really stomach it. Further
    the background of the majority of the party members tends to be from the
    private sector and business and they simply can’t hide their contempt for
    people with no experience outside politics.

    Cameron and Osborne simply have never earned their spurs in
    the real world.

  • Archimedes

    I think the Tory troubles began in 1990, not 1994, didn’t they?

    • telemachus

      In fact they have been in turmoil on and off since the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846.
      Then as now the issue related to little englanders and protectionism

      • TomTom

        Hardly – they split in 1946 with Gladstone going to the Liberals and Disraeli staying with the Diehards……which of them subsequently formed governments Telemachus ?

        • TomTom

          oh..and didn’t Labour live with the haunting fear of 1931 and The Split……and didn’t Gordon Brown, whose thesis on Jimmy Maxton is required reading for every psychotic Scot……simply create the 1931 economic disaster all over again but to expoential power of destruction ? Gordon Brown who had the economic acumen of Edvard Gierek in Poland

          • telemachus

            No doubt you would like to sling all with an alternative point of view in Calton Jail too.
            I would say that when Brown relinquished the reins this country was growing
            You are of course sad like all reasonable folk at the destruction of our potential by the current shower
            Let Zac and Boris hasten the destruction

            • itdoesntaddup

              With a massive £200bn QE bribe to try to take the electorate in, it is hardly surprising that traditional measures showed some growth at the moment the election was due. A reminder: printing money has a lagged effect, so it was done in advance of the election. The economy faltered after the dead cat bounce soon enough. Playing the economic levers to manufacture a quarter’s growth when an election must be held is not a mark of economic genius, but rather of economic bankruptcy.

            • TomTom

              No idea about Calton Jail but I think you should be in a Blunkett Camp for “re-education” – or are you a graduate of one ? Brown did not relinquish the reins, he was kicked out and you can always grow if you leverage enough…….in fact it currently takes about £4 Debt to buy £1 of output

  • Juke Boxx

    If Boris runs on an Anti-Heathrow ticket, how is he going to do that under the Conservative banner? “Vote for me, I’ll stop the policy that my party is forcing through!”

    • CraigStrachan

      Yes, surely he would have to be duly selected as the official Tory candidate? If the notion is that he returns to Parliament to lead the party, it would be ideal if he weren’t expelled from the party in the process.

      • itdoesntaddup

        Is Cameron giong to expel all leadership rivals? He’ll end up in a party of one, because even Osborne wants the leadership.

        • CraigStrachan

          Any party member who stands against an official candidate gets expelled. Which is why it seems unlikely that Boris would contest Richmond in the circumstances that have been suggested.

    • Julian F

      Opposition to a third run-way at Heathrow is a manifesto commitment for the Conservatives. Boris would be running on official party policy, so there would be no pretext for expulsion. And, I think, selection would be up to the local Conservative Association: he wouldn’t struggle too hard to win the nomination in Richmond.

    • TomTom

      How does The Pageboy for The City oppose a runway The City wants ?

      • itdoesntaddup

        By offering them four they’d rather have? Lots of big contracts, shorter commute from Canary Wharf…

  • 2trueblue

    Boris is not the man to lead, he is the man to split the party. The Tories are in trouble and would be better off splitting with the LibDums, The Tories need to get their act together, have discussions and get real about what their voters want. They lost the election because too many issues were fudged, lack of communication. That still remains the case. Clean up and move on.

    • Publius

      The beginning of the end actually came even before the beginning, on that day when Cameron reneged on his cast-iron promise.

      • James102


  • Martin Cole

    I have tweeted and blogged about Heath and the possible similarity of position with Cameron today. Those seeking a Conservative Government might do best if the Coalition collapsed quickly, Cameron and his revamped Cabinet will never supply that!

    • itdoesntaddup

      Exactly – they would assist the Lib Dems in the scenario I painted above.

  • Frank P

    I refer you to the discussion on the Coffee House Wall about the Boris Bullshit from 08:59 – 14:24 today.

  • itdoesntaddup

    I think you’re looking at this the wrong way round. The Lib Dems want to
    be divorced from the coalition before the election, because it isn’t
    delivering economic salvation (and the chance of it doing so is 1%) and they think they might get more votes by trying to move in with
    Labour. They may even rebel with that in mind: an event that might
    normally produce an election, but under our absurd new 5 year
    parliaments Act, simply gives Ed his one shot chance at being PM for
    five minutes.

    Because of the supermajority required to call an
    early election, and the prospect that Lib Dems would be annihilated if
    it were called immediately, they will vote to continue the parliament
    and to form a rainbow coalition (made easier by the odd by-election loss
    such as Corby).

    That will unsheath the long knives for Cameron
    (who would no longer be PM) and Osborne. Ministers like Greening, who
    stand for common ground common sense may be among the contenders for
    leadership. Other lights may emerge from under their bushes. It isn’t
    just about Boris. The ensuing muddle of Lib/Lab nonsense would give a
    real possibility of a sensible government come 2015. Let it happen
    before the 2014 Euro elections, and watch Labour score even lower than
    last time there.

    • James102

      The priority for Clegg was the interests of the EU.

      A re-run of the last election could have resulted in a
      Eurosceptic Conservative majority and that had to be avoided. The fate of the
      LibDems was of little importance. If a Labour majority or a Labour-LibDem
      majority can be obtained Clegg can move his family to Spain and take up a job
      with the EU.

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