Joe Murphy has a rather amusing story in the Standard this afternoon about Tory malcontents’ latest manoeuvres against the Prime Minister. He reports several MPs saying Cameron will need to meet five key tests in order to secure his position as leader. How very democratic of them, measuring the Prime Minister’s performance against a set of targets, rather than just saying they don’t like him, or comparing him to a chambermaid.
But when you read what those targets are, you see the problem that the Prime Minister has with his backbenches. This is what Joe’s story says:
Several MPs said Mr Cameron needs to pass five “key tests” over the next three months: A victory over the Lib Dems in the Eastleigh by-election, avoiding wipe-out in May council elections, preserving Britain’s AAA credit rating, averting a triple-dip recession and a successful spring Budget. “If all these went badly together, it could create an unstable situation,” said a Tory MP.
Now, Grant Shapps and his team are already on a war footing for the Eastleigh by-election. But senior Tories involved in the campaigns side of things are also refusing to entertain great delusions of success in the May council elections, which include all 27 county councils. The next two targets of retaining the AAA credit rating and avoiding a triple-dip recession don’t look particularly hopeful. As for the Budget, well, Osborne is unlikely to be taking any big overseas trips just before this year’s budget as he did in 2012, or indeed trusting the ‘wisdom’ of his Treasury civil servants on the benefits of taxing pasties. The Budget is the most crucial: the party would still face significant problems if a second Budget unravels as it did last year without any of the other issues on this list going badly wrong.