The Conservatives wide-grins over their surprise election result have started to come down as they face the seriousness of the parliamentary programme. For Mr Cameron he may well have won with an overall majority but this “interim” leader will soon find he’s at the mercy of fractious and rebellious MPs.
Over the last five years, let’s be honest, these same backbenchers didn’t matter because coalition with the Liberal Democrats gave Cameron a stable and workable majority in the House of Commons – but alas this is no longer. The Prime Minister will now have to go it alone and keep his house in order. So what does that mean?
Late night nail-biting votes are in store
The opposition parties will be looking to make life very uncomfortable for the austerity driven new Government and will take every opportunity they can to vote against the Tory legislative agenda.
This will result in Tory MPs being forced to ordeal (i.e. work) through late night sittings in Westminster. The days of trotting off on exotic overseas fact finding missions following their “passion” for Caribbean affairs, losing yourself in the Commons bar, and the exhausting three day week in Parliament are all over. Every vote from now on will be a close call. It is going to be a long, long five years for all our newly elected MPs in Westminster and their families too.
The PM is boxed in with the Scottish Nationalists and could lose the Union
The stunning victories of the SNP in Scotland combined with the equally stunning Conservative win in England, without question ushers in the very real possibility of a second independence referendum.
It is more than likely that the SNP will use their strengthened position to make a second vote the central plank of their manifesto for the Scottish Parliament elections next May. If they are as successful, as they were this May – then it’s game on.
The irony for Cameron is that while he played a masterstroke in frightening the English electorate to death with the prospect of the SNP propping up a Labour Government, in doing so, he set in train the possible break-up of the United Kingdom.
There may be paralysis over our future with Europe
As the Prime Minister continues his “help me out or we’re off” tour of Europe it is certain, through the Queen’s Speech, that he will deliver on his pledge to hold an in/out referendum on British membership of the EU by the end of 2017.
This in itself presents problems for the Prime Minister. It means that the time between now and the date of the EU vote will be spent dealing with the most toxic political issue in the history of the Tory Party. It is more than likely that his fellow EU leaders will give him nothing of substance in his much-heralded re-negotiation package and that it will certainly not placate the massed ranks of Tory Euro-sceptic backbenchers.
The Conservative Party and its leadership are still well and truly divided on the issue of Europe. The next 12-24 months are going to make the Major years and the Maastricht rebels look like a polite fight over the last slice of sponge at a vicarage tea party.
The backbenchers will bear their teeth
It was widely accepted in the last Parliament that there were about 20-25 Tory MPs that were basically independents. The whips office could do nothing with them or about them.
The General Election result will see that number rise to anything up to 60. It is not just Europe Cameron has to worry about many of them oppose a third runway at Heathrow or come to think of it, a third runway anywhere. Defence cuts, fox hunting are also a no, no and the list goes on.
The Prime Minister may be forcing down three shredded wheat
Finally we have the self-imposed elephant in the room. No, I am not talking about the NHS, HS2, Immigration or the proposed welfare cuts – I’m talking about when the phrase – “ Err excuse me Sir, isn’t it about time you were going Prime Minister?” is uttered out loud.
Before the election, in the comfort of his kitchen, David Cameron said that terms in office were a bit like eating shredded wheat; two were enough, three too many.
This logically means that at some point in this current Parliament he will be stepping down. He will need to give his successor at least a year to settle into the job before the next General Election and about eight months before that to have an orderly leadership contest, in the middle of governing the country of course. So by my reckoning Cameron will have to leave office just before or just after his EU vote. But what if the UK votes to leave resulting in a major transition? Would he then stomach that third shredded wheat for the sake of the nation as he rushes out to buy an “I’m sorry” card for Boris?
The media, already off the blocks, will be seriously speculating within six months and weekly thereafter who is going to get the job and of course, his Cabinet will be falling out in lumps over the EU package on the table, the vote itself and which one of them gets the top job.
Enjoy the honeymoon Prime Minister – what’s left of it anyway. Good luck with it all as your real problems are just starting.