David Cameron isn’t very good at politics

August 10, 2012 2:00 pm

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.

  • anon

    I stopped reading at “wowzers”. Another article on Labourlist which is nothing more but the author publishing to advance their own political career.

    • Anon

      If you stopped reading at ‘wowzers’ how do you know this? you forgot to read some 3/4 of the article!!

    • Brumanuensis

      Is that you Luke Bozier?

  • aracataca

    This piece is a bit pointless. Firstly, we kind of know that Cameron is neither a tactical or strategical genius – see the failure to win a majority in 2010, the omnishambles  budget, etc. So in that sense it tells us nothing we don’t already know. Secondly, ‘Call me Dave’ might still win the boundary vote as everybody knows the Fib Dems are completely unreliable and flaky in every respect and/or he may yet garner the parliamentary support of the Ulster Unionist parties and ram this measure through. So in that sense the article has the whiff of complacence about it. Come on Emma you can do better than this.

    • ThePurpleBooker

      I agree. Why is she stating the obvious, the boundary changes will be blocked.If Cameron puts it to a vote, then he will not only lose out on boundary changes but create a minority government which will be a disaster for him and his party.

    • Amber Star

      The Ulster Unionists have complained loud & long about the reduction in seats & the proposed new boundaries. They’d have to do a screeching u-turn in order to support them. I’m not saying they absolutely won’t give Cameron their support – but it will be very surprising, if they do.

      The Scottish Nationalists will likely abstain. It’s difficult to see how they could vote with Tories on anything without the risk of losing a big chunk of their Holyrood support which votes Labour for Westminster. It’s one thing for the SNP to say Westminster has too much influence over Scotland; it’s quite another to vote to reduce Scotland’s representation in Westminster by 7 seats (12%). Again, I’m not saying that an abstention is ‘nailed on’ but it seems the safest course of action for them.

      The Welsh Nats are in a similar position to the SNP, I think. The anti-Tory thing isn’t quite so strong in Wales but an abstention seems the safest course for PC too.

      And, if Labour does what’s necessary to win Corby, that’s -2 for the boundary changes.

    • Amber Star

      David Cameron probably can’t rely on all his own back benchers to turn up & vote for the boundary changes. There’s a few of the ‘rebels’ who’ll lose their seats, if the changes go ahead – Nadine Dorries, as mentioned in the article – is one such back bencher.

      They might not want to be seen to be so nakedly self-interested as to vote against but they just might be off sick or out of the country that day!

      I agree with Emma; Cameron is going to end up making a quiet u-turn on this when interest in the subject has died down a bit. He should have binned the changes, said he was confident of a majority in 2015 without it going ahead because the Tories will deliver on deficit reduction & the economy (tax cuts). A strong, confident message for the Tory troops was needed; instead they got tales of Cameron telling his chums that he thinks he can’t win without the new boundaries. He really is sh!t at politics.

      • aracataca

        -2. That doesn’t sound very ‘nailed on’ to me. Please see my comment above about how we already know he is not a master tactician.

        • aracataca

          Amber 
          Please see this from Con.home:

          Tory HQ is not yet willing to give up on the boundary review. There are slim hopes that the DUP, SNP or/and Plaid may yet back the boundary review. 

          Enough said?

          • Redshift

            Why would Plaid back a review which significantly reduces the number of Welsh seats? The SNP are very unlikely to. And the DUP alone can’t deliver it for them. This really is down to what the Lib Dems do.

          • treborc

             Plaid have of course said they have no interest in going into any sort of coalition, and as yous ay they would lose in any c boundary change.

          • Amber Star

            Enough said?
            —————-
            Con.home is your definitive source on this? Really? LOL.

            Read this instead.

            http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-16801102

          • Amber Star

            OMG, you didn’t even use the entire Con.home sentence:

            “Tory HQ is not yet willing to give up on the boundary review. There are slim hopes that the DUP, SNP or/and Plaid may yet back the boundary review. My hunch is that Tory HQ should resign itself to the loss of this incredibly important reform [the boundary changes].” Tim Montgomerie, Con.home editor.

  • Robertcp

    I am not sure if Cameron had any choice but to abandon House of Lords reform and carry on with the boundary changes.  The former would not have got through due to Tory rebels and the Labour Party’s opportunism to put it politely.  On the latter, my understanding is that Parliament has decided that the Boundary Commission should put forward new boundaries and this process cannot be abandoned without another decision from Parliament.

    Anthony Painter’s article earlier this week was a better description of the mess that the Coalition is in at the moment.

  • Redshift

    Informative – I hadn’t heard that this was happening yet within the Lib Dems internally. Up to now, I’ve been fearful they’ll just U-turn. This would have to be an incredible bluff if they have any mind to do that now. 

  • Warelane

    I cannot imagine Caroline Lucas or George Galloway backing David Cameron on this one either.

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