United we stand?

The Tories are trusted on the economy and have a favourable leader. So what can go wrong?

Sir Robert Worcester, the founder of MORI, hypothesised that in order to win a General Election you need to achieve the triple lock of being the most trusted on the economy, having the leader with the highest approval rating, and being the party perceived as the most united.

  • ComRes polling for the Independent on Sunday (taken between 14-15 October) put Cameron/Osborne ahead of Corbyn/McDonnell on the economy (48% versus 29%).
  • A slightly older poll, conducted on 30 September by ComRes, showed that David Cameron is favoured by the public to be Prime Minister over Jeremy Corbyn by a margin of almost two to one (54% preferring Mr Cameron compared to 30% preferring Mr Corbyn).

So that’s two of three. But what about the third?

The October poll showed that 64% of Britons saw Labour as divided versus 35% who saw the Conservatives as such. Whilst this will make despairing reading at Labour HQ, there is enough in here to worry the Conservative party too. The whips will need to earn their bacon in the months and years ahead, especially with such a slim majority. So what are the issues that will keep the Chief Whip, Mark Harper MP, up at night?

  • Europe

Twas ever thus. The looming referendum poses the mother of all headaches for the Prime Minister, as arch Europhobes within the party will not be tamed. Worse still, no firm decision has been as to whether to impose collective responsibility on the Cabinet where the Telegraph reports that up to six Secretaries of State have demanded a free vote.

 

  • Heathrow

Now that Zac Goldsmith has been selected as the Mayoral candidate, the battle lines have been drawn between him and the Davies Commission.  Cameron has said he will reach a view by the end of 2015. With much of business lobby firmly behind Heathrow, his mayoral candidate, and Labour’s, firmly against, Cameron has a fight on his hands, one way or another.

 

  • Tax credits

Perhaps the curve ball on the list. Whilst most of the media’s attention has focussed on the chaos created by the Shadow Chancellor’s U-turn on the fiscal charter, there is also rising discontentment within the Conservative Party on tax credit changes.  A number of the 2015 intake have publically expressed concern about the policy including Heidi Allen, the MP for South Cambridgeshire, who used her Maiden Speech to mount a passionate attack on the Government’s policy. The pressure on the Chancellor has been increased by the intervention of leading Conservatives such as the mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith who has expressed concern about the policy and called for more parliamentary scrutiny on the changes.

 

  • Defence spending and interventionism

With the Strategic Defence & Security Review (SDSR) on the horizon, Michael Fallon will face challenges from some MPs about the pressure being put on our armed forces despite the Prime Minister reaffirming his commitment to the NATO target to spend 2% of GDP on defence. This comes on top of increasing splits in all parties about how to tackle ISIS and whether or not Britain should intervene in Syria.

 

  • Sunday Trading hours

Provisions to allow local authorities to relax Sunday trading are contained within the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, due to go to Committee in the House of Commons on 21 October. This has, however, vexed a group of traditional Conservative MPs, led by David Burrowes, who claim the proposals are anti-family and anti-small business. The group is said to consist of 20 Conservatives which, if Labour also oppose the bill, could bring it down.  Some Conservatives will remember that the last time that a Conservative Government Bill was defeated at Second Reading was when the Thatcher Government was defeated on the Shops Bill in 1986 because the Bill would have introduced Sunday Trading.  This was despite an overall Government majority of 144.