Ryan Winn, Columnist
Writing from: Washington, D.C
It has been a rough few months for British Prime Minister David Cameron. As if keeping the first coalition government in forty years united wasn’t hard enough, Cameron recently lost his Communications Director Andy Coulson amid scandalous allegations that he was involved in cell phone hacking while working at News of the World. Although the student protests of the Fall have subsided and Conservative Party Headquarters is no longer under siege from thousands of tuition fee crusaders, the effects of the deep austerity measures implemented by the government have begun to drag Cameron’s Conservatives down in the opinion polls. A Com Res poll issued on February 9th shows the Conservatives now trail the Labour Party by seven percentage points.
Less than a year ago the Conservatives won a plurality of seats in the House of Commons, besting Labour by over five percentage points. So what happened? Cameron’s “full, comprehensive” offer to the Liberal Democrats to join in an official governing coalition was met with concern from party faithful and the spending cuts promised in the Conservative Manifesto have proven tough for the nation to swallow. Several British commentators are already speculating that this is just the beginning of an even bigger slide in the polls for Cameron and one that will result in the Labour Party reclaiming their majority in the Commons.
Not to be cliché but the tales of Mr. Cameron’s demise are greatly exaggerated. Without question the Conservative led government is taking a beating on the harsh austerity measures it has implemented to return the British economy to a state of fiscal solvency. This laser-like focus on the economy cuts both ways however, and any improvements in the economic standing of the British people will inevitably be credited to the policies Cameron himself has championed in Parliament. The key for David Cameron is to stick to his guns and continue to support Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne as he puts public spending on a Spartan diet. The sheer fact that David Cameron won’t have to put his record on the line until presumably 2015 in the next Parliamentary General Election makes it hard to completely say what the status of his electoral prospects will be. Cameron’s premiership is invariably tied to the future of the economy and early signs indicate that there are reasons to be optimistic for economic recovery.
Another reason Cameron cannot be counted out just yet is that he has done remarkably well in selling the coalition with Liberal Democrats despite major differences on a number of key issues, most notably the transition to a new system for election of MPs. This balancing act is made more tenuous by the rebellious 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs known for their open opposition to any alliance that requires compromising the more divisive Conservative positions on immigration reform and encouraging marriage through tax policy.
Finally, and most importantly, David Cameron remains an apt politician. As the first Conservative Prime Minister in thirteen years, Cameron’s strategy of playing the long game is incredibly risky, but if it pays off, it present the possibility of taking full credit for a British economic recovery, improving the education system, and the most comprehensive review of the British military since World War II. While Cameron’s Conservatives are experiencing some difficulties, it is far too early to declare the end of their control of the House of Commons. What is clear is that Cameron’s fate is tied to the state of the economic recovery. If he can hold power until 2015 as the economy improves, Cameroon will be in an excellent position to campaign on his successful returning of the United Kingdom to its enviable standing before the global economic recession.