The Love Deficit

David Cameron enjoys offering racing tips but if he wishes to enjoy a healthy night’s sleep he should stay away from the bookies.

One well-known high street player is offering odds of 5/1 that the Prime Minister will be the next MP to leave the Cabinet.

Yes, he is under extreme pressure over the discussions he may have had with News International about the future of BSkyB, and his relationship with former News of the World editor Andy Coulson is an albatross so heavy a less broad-shouldered PM might crumple.

But to suggest to people that there is just as great a chance that Mr Cameron will be ousted from Downing Street as there is that Baroness Warsi will be dropped from the Cabinet seems extraordinary, if not hysterical.

In contrast, Nick Clegg, who has had to face the humiliation of the lost AV vote is at 33/1.

The same bookmaker is offering odds of 2/1 that David Cameron will be replaced as Conservative leader before the next general election.

Such pessimism about his prospects will not cheer him up, but what might send a chill down his spine is the knowledge it would be his own party which drops any guillotine.

“Flip,” he might think. “Tony Blair survived the Eccleston affair, the mockery of the WI, fuel protests, fun in the sun with Berlusconi, the Iraq invasion, cash for honours, and his party didn’t push him off the stage for about three million years. What have I done wrong?”

The answer may be that many, many Labour activists loved what early-era Blair did to Labour while Conservatives do not look at the coalition and beam with such brilliant pride.

Blair took a party that for years was about as fashionable as earmuffs and positioned it at the heartbeat of the zeitgeist.

To be cool was to be at a party in Downing Street with the Prime Minister and a Britpop musician.

Yes, Blair jettisoned Clause Four and some socialist creeds, but this was done in the spirit of a rock star throwing a TV off a hotel balcony. He was a dude who won two landslides and nobody was about to stop the party.

But do the Tory faithful like the policy cocktails Mr Cameron and his Lib Dem friends serve up?

The social conservatism that defined past manifestos has been muted and there is sometimes a faint grumble that if hoodie-hugging did not win the last election, why should it work next time round?

Mr Cameron knows that elections are won in the centre ground, but he may need to remind the supposedly faithful of that fact.

A Thursday Column

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