Sebastian Payne

Never mind about David, we need to talk about George

It’s a familiar theme: the Tory conference is approaching, David Cameron is in trouble and knives are coming out for him. But how much of the problems are of his own making, and how many have come from the Treasury? Tim Montgomerie focuses today on No.10 (£), saying that Prime Minister must come out fighting for his own survival:

‘Gay marriage is only the latest issue that is beginning to create the dangerous impression that Mr Cameron is smaller than the events, factions and tides of public opinion that swirl around his Government. The Prime Minister is no longer seen as his own man. People wonder if he’s in command of his own destiny, let alone the nation’s.

He can’t cure our economic ills because everything Britain does is overshadowed by the eurozone. He can’t deliver the crime and deregulatory policies that he promised because the Liberal Democrats won’t let him. He can’t deliver Lords reform because of mutinous Tory backbenches. He hoped for a golden moment in the Olympic sun but was completely eclipsed by Boris Johnson.’

None of this would matter if the economy was recovering. But voters don’t see a recovery, and like every failing relationship they start to criticise little things that the Prime Minister does. Yesterday’s polling suggested that two thirds of voters believe the coalition (ie, the Chancellor) is managing the economy badly and over three quarters think that the British economy remains in a bad state. This places Cameron’s core headache squarely with George Osborne.

Ever since Cameron ran for leader of the Conservative Party in 2005, both himself and Osborne have been keen to avoid comparisons with Blair and Brown. In fact, the difference is that Osborne and Cameron are even harder to distinguish. They are a unit: Cameron in 2005 decided to keep his friend as Shadow Chancellor and keep him there after the crash.

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