Daniel Korski

Wrong to be too Right

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From a right-wing perspective, there are several things wrong with David Cameron's leadership - not least the fact that he did not win the 2010 election outright. As an unassailable report by Lord Ashcroft showed, the Tory campaign squandered a historic lead over Labour.

The policy disagreements - over the EU, civil liberties, and the AV referendum - are compounded by personal grievances. The Prime Minister, despite investing quite a lot of time placating quarrelsome  MPs - calling them, writing them letters, inviting them to No 10 - cannot shake the impression of a man who is buoyed by confidence verging on arrogance, and someone who is reliant on - indeed most comfortable with - a small, largely unelected group of friends. There is an old saying that one should be nice to people on the way up - as you might meet them on the way down. To paraphrase the adage, the PM should probably have been nicer to Tory MPs on the way up - as he needs them now that he has reached the summit.

Yet for all his faults, the PM has something his right-wing assailants do not - an election-winning strategy for government. The right, in turn, is throwing a reality-ignoring tantrum.

Let us be clear. The idea that a more right-wing strategy would have garnered more votes at the last election is simply not borne out by recent history or polling. It would win an outright majority on Coffee House and ConservativeHome - but not in the country.

Second, the fact is that the Tories did not win an outright victory; they've had to share power with the Lib Dems. Rolling around on the floor demanding that an unadulterated Tory programme be instituted and issuing ultimatums to the PM via the papers, is politically akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face. Pushed too far, Nick Clegg would walk and a new election would be called - just as the cuts bite, strikes set in and Labour is able to squeeze into a Lib-Lab coalition.

Finally, despite the obstacles of governing with the extremes of  Vince Cable and Owen Paterson,  this government is quite visionary - the way it intends to deal with education, welfare, healthcare, indeed the economy as a whole, is innovative, aggressive and in accord with well-established conservative principles about decentralisation, and the role of the market. The government has not got everything right - but it has not even been a year since it came to power!

So while I agree that the Prime Minister's critics will produce plenty of raw material for newspaper columns and Newsnight programmes, the truth is simple: if they want to contribute to policy-making they need to help develop policies not just pooh-pooh the government's ideas. They need to work within the political constraints not pretend they do not exist.