‘The problems of victory’, Winston Churchill told the House of Commons in November 1942, ‘are more agreeable than the problems of defeat, but they are no less difficult.’
As a pragmatist and a realist, David Cameron almost certainly realises this is the case. May 7th was a triumph – a vindication even. But the majority he won was narrow. And it doesn’t simply wash away all his problems. Indeed it makes some of them even worse.
The parliamentary party, for instance, may be easier to manage because jobs can be given to Tories rather than Lib Dems. But gratitude is one of politics’ most perishable commodities. And many Conservative ultras are about to discover that the reason they can’t get what they want (on climate change and energy policy, on welfare cuts, on immigration, on terrorism, on human rights, on grammar schools, on trade union reforms, and on EVEL/Scotland) has far less to do with their former coalition partners than it does with parliamentary, legal, international, and electoral realities.
The PM, one suspects, hardly needs anyone to tell him this. Or to remind him that his mandate is too small and shaky for him to hare off in the direction that some of his more zealous supporters (not least those who were busy sharpening their knives for him before his stunning victory) will demand. Whatever modernisation meant, it meant not departing too far, rhetorically at least, from the centre-ground.
With that in mind, what Mr Cameron needs to do now is to work out what, in his heart of hearts, he really wants as his legacy and then focus, laser-like, on that. It speaks volumes that so many of us still aren’t entirely sure what that ‘that’ actually is. Tell us, Prime Minister. Then get cracking. The clock’s already ticking.
[Originally published at http://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2015/05/we-ask-our-panel-what-should-cameron-do-next.html]