David Cameron should be in a seriously painful public position, the knife of public opinion scraping viciously against his ribs, searching for his heart. But this isn’t happening, why not? The electorate hate disunity, infighting and squabbles, it looks especially bad in the Tory party because of the ‘nasty party’ image that still follows a few steps behind like Captain Hook’s determined crocodile. They are currently contending with EU splits and budget bickers. The answer is God’s gift to Conservatives, Jeremy Corbyn. Earnest, rambling Corbyn is no crocodile. With all the killer instinct of a flamingo, during the Prime Minister’s first appearance in the House of Commons following Ian Duncan-Smith’s shock resignation, Corbyn made no mention of the event. Failing to notice or capitalise upon the gaping Tory wound to the weary derision of Labour MPs, he instead launched poorly projected, low damage budget-based projectiles at Cameron. Cameron is a political heavyweight and they did not bring him down. Labour MPs asked if Corbyn’s leadership was responsible for the chaos in the Tory ranks were quoted in the Telegraph describing the idea as “laughable”.
The EU referendum is a trickier animal. Had Cameron known he would walk the 2015 General Election as easily as he did he would never have promised it. Cameron doesn’t want to be at the helm if Britain votes to leave, he doesn’t want that as his legacy. He will resign in Britain leaves and if the result is a whisker in favour of remain he may still do. He’s had a fairly easy few years in office, a Tory success without much to prove but a vote to leave would be a blow to the expert political reputation Cameron has fostered and that has been so kindly incubated by the ineffectual consecutive oppositions of Miliband and Corbyn. Perhaps I do Miliband a disservice by tarring him with the same brush as Corbyn but who can forget Miliband’s embarrassing pledge stone?
The jostling of the Tory big beasts, Osbourne, May, Johnson and Morgan to name a few do not seem to have disturbed Cameron, high on his dais. By giving his premiership a sell-by date when he announced that he would shun a third term and stand down in 2020 Cameron has, counter to all established political thinking, managed to insulate himself as opposed to becoming a lame duck prime minister. Cameron’s secret may simply be that he is generally well liked by his party. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown brutally and permanently bruised each other with vicious infighting that marred both their premierships. With an ineffectual Tory opposition for most of his time in Downing Street, Blair’s biggest opponent was not opposite him in the House of Commons, he was gloweringly sitting right next to him. Cameron is on a cake walk.
With his party’s respect the Prime Minister has few political messes to worry about and he keeps himself out of the rough and tumble of speculation about who the next leader may be. Boris Johnson, the machiavellian bumbler? George Osbourne, apparently very likeable but spat upon by the public? Theresa May, the steely style-updated Thatcher? Or maybe Nicky Morgan, the sweet faced innocent? The next leader is likely to be the next Prime Minister as the Labour grass roots will probably prevent desperate Labour MPs from pushing out Corbyn before the next election. If the next Tory PM does as well as Cameron and maintains a reputation this good this late in the game, then they have done well indeed.