Brian Monteith: Ed could be the Tories’ saviour

Are David Cameron’s days at No 10 numbered? Even if he manages to go his whole term, either leading a minority government or in coalition with Nick Clegg, are we now able to talk about Prime Minister Edward Miliband without suppressing an incredulous laugh?

The reasons I ask these questions are probably of no surprise to anyone who takes even the vaguest interest in British politics.

The coalition is clearly in trouble over Lords reform. The Liberal Democrats held out for a referendum on proportional voting for Westminster but when the British public gave that a humiliating raspberry it left them without much of a purpose other than to “moderate” their 
Conservative partners in what they would like to do.

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Trying to find a role for themselves, Clegg’s cabal concocted a false commitment to Lords reform that is not in the coalition document. All that was agreed was that coalition proposals would be put to the House of Commons – the political papers say nothing about forcing Conservative MPs to vote against their better judgement.

It did, however, say that the Lib Dems would back the boundary review that will make the distribution of constituency seats more equitable, benefitting the Tory shire seats by about 20 to the cost of far smaller Labour urban divisions. Now the lib Dems are threatening to renege on their solemn promise. To paraphrase Samuel Goldwyn, even a publicly witnessed Lib Dem contract is like a verbal IOU – not worth the paper it’s written on.

So much for the Lib Dem belief in fairness and democracy.

The Liberal Democrats are effectively an albatross around David Cameron’s neck. Economic prospects look grim; the IMF has cut its growth forecasts and yet the Lib Dems are 
a drag on helping our economic 
recovery – seeking to prevent reductions in expensive regulations and prevent the real reductions in public spending necessary to finance tax cuts that would help get the economy going.

They also hold fast to all this green energy malarkey that costs British families more than £300 more (and rising) for electricity bills – creating greater energy poverty and pricing our companies out of jobs against foreign competition with cheaper fuel. George Osborne would have cut the subsidies to expensive and uneconomic wind turbines already if it were not for the delicacy of relations with the Lib Dems.

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So much for putting the country first. David Cameron would be well rid of them, but don’t expect it to come to that for the polls and elections held since 2010 tell us the Lib Dems are facing obliteration at the next general election, be it now or the planned date of 2015. They face the real possibility of falling behind UKIP – the real independence party – to become the fourth party in Britain.

We should therefore expect these particular turkeys to prolong their life and keep the coalition together until they are stuffed and basted by the British public – especially in Scotland where Lib Dem ratings are particularly poor.

Surely, then, David Cameron might benefit from the collapse in Lib Dem support? Nothing’s that simple, for he’s caught in a pincer he should have seen coming. The vast majority of disenchanted Lib Dem voters are crossing over to Labour despite the responsibility they shoulder for creating the worst economic morass in living memory. This means Labour could win back a stack of Tory/Labour marginals in England.

Then there are many disenchanted Tory voters who believe that Cameron’s government is not Conservative enough (which is stating the blindingly obvious) and are drifting over to UKIP or simply staying at home (such as in the English council elections this year). We can expect UKIP to do very well in the 2014 European elections – strengthening their presence and eating at Tory support even more. They could even win the Eastleigh 
by-election that may happen if Lib Dem Chris Huhne is convicted for perverting the course of justice.

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Come the general election, UKIP could therefore take enough Tory votes for Labour to win yet more marginals – or even win some seats itself – which would revolutionise British politics, for the BBC would suddenly have to give them the oxygen of fairer airtime they are regularly denied.

All of this is reflected in opinion polls that are putting Labour at 44 per cent and Conservatives at only 31 per cent. The game looks up for Cameron – but is it?

There is a chink of light and it is the polling of what the public thinks of Ed Miliband. True, Cameron’s lead over Miliband is smaller than before but only because his ratings have fallen over the difficult summer – not because Miliband’s have improved; they have still never excelled Brown’s in 2010!

And when asked who would make the better Prime Minister, Cameron wins hands down. If this position holds, then the general election will turn into a presidential race. David Cameron might think he has problems – but it could be worse – he could be Edward Miliband addressing a party and a public that just don’t think him credible to be a Prime Minister.