Ever since the Conservative Party Conference in September – when the party’s green credentials were unceremoniously dumped by George Osborne – the manoeuvrings of the Tory right, to replace David Cameron, have been heating up.
In today’s Daily Telegraph, under lightly veiled cover of criticism of the Chancellor, columnist Peter Osborne declares:
“It is not properly appreciated, except among Treasury officials and the Downing Street inner circle, that George Osborne is only a part-time Chancellor of the Exchequer. On the one hand, Osborne is in charge of the national finances at a time of the gravest imaginable economic crisis; on the other, he is equally active and energetic as the chief strategist to the Prime Minister.”
We are being told that the country is affectively being run by the Chancellor. Consider the second paragraph of the article:
“Here are the facts. On an average day, Osborne will arrive at the Treasury shortly after 8am. There he will convene a very brief meeting with officials before strolling up Whitehall to join the morning strategy meeting at 10 Downing Street. He does not attend the latter in his capacity as finance minister. Rather, he forcefully expresses his opinions across a very wide range of policy and political issues.”
In his Autumn Statement George Osborne delivered a striking public blow to the credibility of the Prime Minister, who campaigned for an election on the premise “Vote Blue Go Green”. He bemoaned the burden of “endless social and environmental goals” on industry, and described the Habitats Regulations as a “ridiculous cost on British business”, claiming that they amounted to “gold plating” on European legislation.
Meanwhile ConservativeHome’s campaign of public support (with subtle undermining) for Mr Cameron’s position, seems to be moving towards the openly hostile, with the publication of their member survey results. The questions appear to have been designed to demonstrate support for the Chancellor, including a policy question that has long existed as a demonstration of how-out-of tune Mr Cameron is with his party:
It was right that the Chancellor trimmed aid spending by £525 million:
Agree 91%, Disagree 6%
It is not just the failure to win the last election that has antagonised, nor the woolly policies themselves. Much of the internal opposition to Mr Cameron comes from his own handling of his party. The dictatorial powers of the leader of the Tories has traditionally caused leaders to look for consensus within the ranks (for fear of dissent), in a party without the alarm bell of regular democratic tests. Mr Cameron failed to take his party with him on crucial policy issues such as The Big Society, but even worse, he imposed his mates as A-list candidates, and blocked the parliamentary ambitions of many talented people.
Meanwhile, where are the Cameroons these days? It seems from these reports that Mr Cameron is increasingly isolated in Downing Street, and increasingly without friends. His best friend George is making him a puppet, while no one appears to be coming to his aid. ConservativeHome remains loyal to the party, and therefore to the leader, but party loyalty is a bloody knife at the best of times.
But for ConservativeHome to become openly hostile should be a cause of alarm for Mr Cameron. For the Telegraph to join in makes planning for a funeral prudent. We should assume that it is only a matter of time until the matter comes to a head and a leadership challenge results.
From observing these events, it would seem likely that the contest will become a coronation.
Make way for King George.