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By Peter Hoskin
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Conference 2012Tomorrow's edition of the
Spectator is, for obvious reasons, a rather Tory Party-heavy affair. I won't
spoil all of its delights here (which include, ahem, a lead arts piece by yours
truly), but I will pull out some quotes from Fraser Nelson's cover story, which is headlined “Dave's Going Down”. This is how the Spectator editor starts his
article:

By now, it will be clear even to David
Cameron that he is on course to lose the next general election. The British
electoral system always was rigged against the Conservatives, and his hopes for
changing that were dashed by Nick Clegg before the summer holidays, when he
scuppered Tory plans for boundary reform. All parties are returning to a new
reality: the economic recovery has evaporated, and with it the Tories’ chances
of winning next time. An unprepared Labour Party is cruising towards power,
under a leader who has just held a surprisingly successful party conference.
Every bookmaker now agrees: Cameron is heading for a crash.

And he concludes:

“Cameron’s
defeat, while horribly likely, is not inevitable. An implosion in the European Union
may lead to British withdrawal, in which case all bets are off. Also, Labour’s
10-point lead hardly guarantees victory. Neil Kinnock commanded a 23-point lead
and still went on to lose to John Major. Nor is it impossible for the Tories to
win more seats with fewer votes: this is precisely what Baroness Thatcher did
after her first, tumultuous term in power. Her weapon, in 1983, was the
Labour/SDP split. Some senior Tories want to repeat the trick this time, and
have a new, Vince Cable-led Lib Dem party steal votes from Miliband just as the
SDP stole them from Michael Foot.

Cameron,
of course, has escaped from worse scraps. Five years ago, he went to the
Blackpool conference where the party was expecting to fight (and lose) an
election within weeks. He held his nerve, and scared Gordon Brown into
cancelling the election. He specialises in avoiding political death traps, but
he also has a gift for stumbling into them in the first place. For Tory party
members, it’s all a bit tiring. The Prime Minister is a good and natural
leader, when he feels the need to act with urgency. Now would be a rather good
time for him to look down, and panic.”

2007 conferenceIt was just before that Blackpool
conference, five years ago, that The Spectator published a cover showing Mr
Cameron with his head in a noose, and the headline “Get Out This, Dave” (see
image to the right). This time, their cover cartoon is of Mr Cameron plummeting
headfirst from the sky, while (in a cheeky addition) Boris soars past in a plane. Half a decade on, the theme is the same: the
Tory leader is in a fix, and will do well to escape it. Except this time he’ll
need more than the
promise of an inheritance tax cut
to succeed.

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