Don't get cocky, Cameron: the world is taking a left turn

Jan 27, 2012
Donald Malcolm

David Cameron may be looking good against Ed Miliband – but right-wing politics is so yesterday

DAVID CAMERON has swept into 2012 looking busy and establishing a lead over Ed Miliband's Labour party which, according to at least two opinion polls, points to an outright victory at the next General Election, allowing the PM to drop those irksome Lib Dems.

A new Guardian/ICM poll suggested the Tories had opened up a five-point lead over Labour. YouGov's daily tracker poll shows a similar lead.

This is despite the fact that David Cameron and George Osborne's economic policies have virtually extinguished growth in the British economy with a consequent leap in unemployment and a squeeze on living standards. Thanks to Labour's inability under Miliband to present a convincing alternative, voters are still giving the Tories the benefit of the doubt.

This has encouraged Cameron to make himself busy with a plethora of "initiatives" on health and safety and nursing standards which will almost certainly not be translated into anything concrete in the near term.

He also finds it useful, following his so-called "veto" at the European summit in December, to continue ticking off his fellow European leaders, saying they still have "a long way to go" before the euro is safe. While his speech at Davos yesterday will have left Sarkozy and Merkel fuming, it helps keep his Europhobe MPs off his back and pull UKIP-inclined voters back into the Tory fold.

But before Cameron gets too cocky about his chances, there are elections this year that could severely dent Tory optimism if current polling is carried into real results. These polls suggest a growing repudiation of right-wing thinking – especially on strategies for tackling national debt.

The first election on the horizon is the London mayoral poll on 3 May. Recent polls in London show a reverse trend to those nationwide.

For the first time, Boris Johnson is trailing Labour's Ken Livingstone. With two back-to-back polls in recent days showing Ken ahead by two points – down from an eight-point lead for Johnson last year – the Tory is faltering. As The Mole pointed out last week, the message seems to be that while Boris the celeb was a sure winner, Boris the Tory is vulnerable.

The mayor's airport plan for the Thames estuary is almost certainly a vote loser in west London, where thousands of jobs depend on Heathrow. Livingstone, meanwhile, has found a powerful bread-and-butter issue – Tube and bus fares – with which to attack his opponent.

A defeat for Johnson is a nightmare for Cameron. It would instantly prick the bubble of optimism and, worse still, see the former Tory MP heading back to the Commons at the next available by-election to renew his rivalry with Cameron and George Osborne.

As the London election approaches, so does the French presidential election. Here there seems little doubt that the candidate of the left, Francois Hollande, will trounce Nicolas Sarkozy.

Even if he makes the run-off on 6 May, the conservative Sarkozy is on track for a crushing defeat by Hollande, who was enjoying double-digit poll leads even before he was formally selected as the Socialist candidate in October.

The ramifications are enormous. As Labour's former Europe minister Denis MacShane says: "Victory for Hollande would break apart the right-wing hegemony of Sarkozy, Merkel, Cameron, the EU Commission president Barroso – and now Mario Monti in Italy and Mariano Rajoy in Spain - that has been imposing 1930s-style austerity on Europe."

MacShane notes that Angela Merkel is also struggling in Germany where elections are due in 2013. Her centre-right coalition is nine points behind the centre-left opposition of the Social Democrats (SPD) and their allies, the Greens.

Says MacShane: "Cameron's view that there is no alternative to his classic right-wing ideas on government will come under challenge as Europe questions today's ideological conventional wisdom."  

Back to 2012. The emphasis on jobs and growth in Barack Obama's State of the Union speech this week will be at the heart of his campaign for re-election. His approach contrasts starkly with the Austerity Max policies espoused by Cameron and Osborne.
The President looks set to beat whoever the Republicans choose to run against him – and the prospect of Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich only helps his chances.
Victories for the left – even the very soft left – in London, Europe and the States would plant a real question mark over Cameron's hopes for the outright victory in 2015 that eluded him in 2010.

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