David Cameron isn’t very good at politics.
When I first said this it was a controversial statement. Now it’s pretty commonly accepted. He still has his moments, but right now he’s basically the badly burnt toast of the London Olympics. His party have limped their way to the Summer recess infighting and imploding all the way.
So no, David Cameron isn’t very good at politics. For example, today, he has been outmanoeuvred by the Lib Dems. Let’s say that again – outmanoeuvred by the Lib Dems. Wowzers.
Today, the Lib Dems announced that they are going to run their candidate selection process according to the 2010 boundaries. The first and most obvious message to take from this is that the Lib Dems are confirming the seriousness of their intention to the Tories to stop boundary changes. That’s certainly the immediate message to be taken, but actually, this is cleverer and more subtle than just that.
This move leave David Cameron in a terrible hole. His party are suffering from very poor polling, and while Labour is far from certain to win the next election, they are in a much stronger position than anyone predicted a year ago. His admirable stance on gay marriage is losing him grassroot activist support, the number of Tory members already having slumped dramatically. the last thing he needs is something that’s going to make it harder for his activists to fight in their constituencies next time around.
But that’s exactly what he’s done.
As long as he insists on believing he will be able to change Lib Dem minds over the boundary changes (or think he can somehow pull off the Parliamentary arithmetic another way – something nobody things can be done) he will be unable to do as the Lib Dems did today and Labour did earlier this week and organise the selection process for Tory candidates at the next election under the most likely boundaries. To do so would look like capitulation and would bring the end of the boundary change argument forward before any vote were cast.
But to not do so means that Labour and Lib Dem candidates will have the run of these constituencies until the final vote in Autumn next year. It means that Tory MPs whose seats would be abolished under the changes will continue to face uncertainty. Shy, retiring types like Nadine Dorries for example.
So in failing to accept that he has lost the advantage he was seeking in changing the boundaries, Cameron has placed his party at a further disadvantage by making it harder for their candidates to establish themselves and giving his opponents a huge, huge head start in so doing.
Well done Dave – yet another masterstroke of tactical politics.
This post was first published at Scarlet Standard.