As flooding continued in the Somerset levels for the fifth week and storms lashed the UK the Prime Minister took charge of the Government response, chairing a meeting of COBRA. However, after 21 meetings of COBRA so far it is unclear what the Prime Minister can do.
He may be casting his mind back to his first year as leader when he was being smashed by the “big clunking fist” that was Gordon Brown and floods had besieged the country including in Cameron’s native Cotswolds. Then, as now, he was criticised for not responding quickly or effectively.
This could be another sign that Cameron is running out of ideas and a sign that the Prime Minister is running out of steam, something that Phillip Collins raised in a tour de force in the Times this week. Talk is increasingly of Cameron as the new John Major.
Nowhere was this seen more clearly as in the non-vote vote of the Immigration Bill last week. Cameron, having deferred the Bill since November, was challenged so much by a backbench amendment that he had to remove the whip and abstain, the Government’s official position only making it through on the back of Labour and Lib Dem MPs walking through the division lobbies.
However, Cameron’s ability to get himself into a crisis is only trumped by his ability to get himself out of one – in a winter of storms things keep battering the Prime Minister.
PR slip ups are harming the party. At PMQs all of the women cabinet members were absent, Theresa May for one being at a G6 conference. Ed Miliband pointed this out with ruthless effect, lining his own frontbench with women. This may be another bagatelle but all of these things stack up. If people feel that the Conservative Party has not, or cannot, modernise it will struggle to better its level of polling from the last election.
More bad news is on the horizon too. Opinion polls show UKIP is on course to snatch second place ahead of David Cameron’s Tories in another warning of their threat in the run-up to the general election next year.
They show Nigel Farage’s party is on course to beat make further inroads in next Thursday’s Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election, highlighting UKIP’s potential to beat the Conservatives in the forthcoming European elections and split the centre-right vote in 2015.
In a week which also saw polling that 41% of Lib Dem voters are Dr Who fans Parliament saw less science fiction and more of a horror show. In heated exchanges at PMQs this week Speaker Bercow made himself yet another enemy in the Education Secretary, Michael Gove MP. Bercow had a nightmarish week and making an enemy of the Education Secretary will weaken his position further.
He was formerly Head of Policy at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP). With degrees in history and economics from the Universities of Oxford and London, Jake is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a trustee of the European Association of Philanthropy and Giving and advises several governments on public policy. He also advises clients on CSR and philanthropy activities.
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