I was wrong, very wrong. Much like those on their deathbeds rallying briefly before the inevitable demise, I had believed that 1992 represented the final rally before the death prang of the Conservative Party as a party of Majority Government in the United Kingdom. Instead May 2015 will be viewed by posterity as one of the most remarkable election victories in modern times.
Incumbency, economic struggles, and a manifesto of budget cuts – historic electoral logic would dictate that merely holding on to the gains of 2010 would have represented a victory; but to increase votes, to increase seats, to deliver a Conservative majority for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century? Regardless of your position on the political spectrum it must, and history will, be acknowledged as a mightily impressive result, and one that should be studied by any incumbent government for the remainder of the century. On top of all this, on paper the future looks exceptionally bright for re-election prospects in 2020, the eventual heir to Cameron will surely look at the landscape and beam, the door looks open to a sustained period of Tory dominance.
Majority government now gives the Tories the chance to alter the boundaries to readdress the bias towards Labour, ensuring that come 2020, the Labour Party will require an even higher swing to achieve any sort of victory. Importantly, what Labour party will the Tories face come 2020? It will face a party so hopeless that it will be looking upon the days of Gordon Brown with nostalgia, the days when it was a party of Government a full decade behind it. If a week is a long time in politics then a decade represents the antiquity.
The Labour Party has been removed as a serious electoral force until at least the mid-2020s. Indeed they could elect Jesus Christ as their next leader and still the electoral maths would look foreboding – Wipe-out in Scotland, with no clear plan to tackle the SNP insurgency (Indeed, will Scotland even be a factor by 2025?) Serious pressure on their Northern heartlands from a UKIP which has demonstrated a real skill in connecting with the disgruntled white working class, a three-pronged squeeze on their Welsh vote, and nothing appealing to say to pale blue Middle England.
Not only does Labour not have the ability to elect the almighty; any of the four potential leaders on offer are hardly likely to keep any leading Tory awake at night: Burnham and Cooper come with too much baggage from the past, Kendall will struggle to distinguish herself from Cameron’s brand of ‘Conservativism’, and Corbyn would secure Conservative electoral victories for a generation. Despite all of this, I suspect David Cameron would have preferred his electoral victory to not have been so clear cut; indeed rather than the historic 2015 result, he would have much rather seen a repeat of 2010, but why?
The Liberal Democrats relegation into electoral cannon fodder has left Cameron dangerously close to being exposed to what he really is: a lightweight, supine centre ground Liberal. Cameron is a man who would have found himself quite comfortable in the New Labour party of Tony Blair, but alas he is not. Majority Government now brings into influence a group whose influence has not been felt on the legislative programme since that famous victory in 1992: The Conservative MPs who are actually Conservative. Without the fig leaf of the Lib Dems for Cameron to use as a pretext for not passing legislation he deep down disagrees with, Cameron has a stark choice – Come out as the Europhile, hoody hugging, big-state loving liberal he is, or pursue an agenda that he fundamentally opposes. His total fumbling over Cabinet collective responsibility in the EU referendum is a mere appetiser of the of the travails he will continue to get himself in between now and the referendum and his pre-planned resignation that will happen once the result of that referendum is known.
With each struggle Cameron’s position as both a lame duck PM and a non-Tory will become ever more prescient. The majority is slender; it cannot survive expulsion or hard-line party management. Cameron’s talents as a top class PR man will not be able to spin his way out of Cabinet resignations and open dissent, if this is also allied with a natural down-turn in the business cycle, then the new leaders inheritance certainly has plenty of clouds bulking out the aforementioned silver linings.
As such the future of the Tories may on paper look bright for 2020, but Cameron’s complete inability to manage his party beyond the honeymoon, and reconcile his ideological position with a large swathe of his party, will lead to splits that will make the Major years look harmonious. Cameron’s victory may well have been historic, but unless Cameron delivers real conservatism in his programme, then 2015 could end up being the death prang that I’d assumed 1992 to be.