I have written for this morning’s Guardian about the biggest three obstacles between David Cameron and a parliamentary majority. The full article is here but these are the three obstacles I identify:
"The biggest obstacle is the persistence of the Lib Dems. They are the bindweed of politics. Once they’ve invaded territory they are stubbornly resistant to eradication – and they hold seats the Conservatives need for a working parliamentary majority. Although Ming Campbell’s uninspiring leadership has knocked a few points off his party’s standing, there is no guarantee that well-regarded Lib Dems will be ousted. The Tories need to match their local energy as they did in Ludlow, Guildford and Newbury at the last election. Tory HQ also needs every middle-English voter to understand that a Conservative vote is the only sure way of ending Labour government. Campbell’s five tests for Brown were a strong hint that he is inclined to prop up a minority Labour government.
Obstacle two is an unhappy right flank. A YouGov poll found that 30% of Tory voters chose Ukip or the BNP as their second choice. Others could stay at home if they find nothing appealing on the Tory menu. Cameron must be as greedy for political territory as Tony Blair once was. While the Tory leader competes for new voters in the centre ground, he must also jealously guard his natural base. This shouldn’t be too difficult. Combining, for example, a commitment to helping the world’s poorest people with tough immigration policies will appeal to a broad cross-section of voters. Punishments for persistent offenders do not mean that Cameron can’t explore ways of helping young men off the conveyor belt to crime. Recent policies on marriage and police reform suggest he is sensitive to maintaining the breadth of the party’s coalition, but too many missteps like the green tax consultation will split the core vote.
Macmillan’s famous "events" represent the third obstacle, but some are not unpredictable. Brown may look best against Cameron in a crisis. An economic downturn may play into his hands as it benefited John Major in 1992. "Hold on to nurse for fear of something worse" could be Labour’s YouTube strategy, as images of Brown alongside world leaders are spliced with images of a bicycling Cameron. The Tories need more greybeards – voters will not entrust a troubled Britain to inexperienced hands."