After one of the most widely-anticipated Prime Minister’s Questions in recent history, in which Jeremy Corbyn officially began life on the front bench as the new Labour Leader, questions now arise of David Cameron and the future of the modern day Conservative Party.
Such questions are not those of political clout or moral standing, but of the Party’s current leadership track record and subsequent policy strategy. Cameron, was recently re-elected as Prime Minister, via a creaking 2-party electoral system in which, with only 24% of the popular vote, the Tory Party maintained control of 10 Downing Street, in a shock election result that every pollster had managed to predict incorrectly.
And now, in the 10 years since David Cameron first crossed the threshold of Number 10, he has played the political game very deftly indeed, but at what ultimate cost?
Back in 2005, on the eve of the Conservative win, Cameron – very cleverly, to his party’s credit – found himself at the helm of a recently rebranded Tory party; one in which climate change and green credentials were key and photo ops with Huskies on the snow came as standard. Fast forward 10 years. What has changed?
Ever since the General Election result in May, Cameron and the Tories have quickly cut or watered down no less than 9 major policies in the renewable and clean energy sector. From cutting new windfarm developments, both on- and off-shore, to reducing PV cell discounts for homeowners wanting to place solar panels on the roofs of their houses, both impacting hundreds of thousands of recently created jobs, Cameron has quickly done away with many of the pledges that he and Tory party committed to stand firmly by during the campaign trail.
Another prime example of backtracking, especially pertinent in this ever-expanding age of renewable energy availability, Downing Street recently confirmed the appointment of a former oil and gas lobbyist as a key policy advisor to David Cameron in the energy sector. Stephen Heidari-Robinson, formerly of Schlumberger – one of the largest, but widely un-heard of, names in the oil and gas exploration industry – will now brief the Prime Minister on all matters concerning energy policy.
With the all-important Paris UNFCCC climate talks rapidly approaching, is the UK’s position to be that of climate-skepticism? The Kyoto Protocol – a policy formed in 1992 to control greenhouse gas emissions worldwide – is set to expire in 2020. Often described, by scientific researchers and policymakers alike, as the last chance for the UN to secure a new Treaty to tackle greenhouse gas emissions, the Paris climate talks will be key to mobilising the changes in policy necessary to prevent a severe global climate crisis.
The key question to ask is of Cameron; in securing a second term as PM, has he thrown his would-be successor, George Osborne, to the baying hounds? Yes, Cameron often scores relatively highly in party-centric opinion polls, but the same cannot be said of Osborne, the current Chancellor of the Exchequer.
To better understand the internal struggle within the Conservative front bench, look to the recent strategy surrounding the way in which the Party has treated the arrival of former London Mayor, Boris Johnson, to the House of Commons. It is no secret that Johnson has been seeking the job of his Bullingdon Club contemporary, but the thorn in his side comes as he has spectacularly failed to anticipate the highly political nature of his adversary. Osborne has been quietly, carefully planning his road to Number 10 since his days at Eton, and he is now within touching distance of the grand prize.
But, like Hilary Clinton, who may well lose out on the Democratic nomination in the race to the White House – to none other than the progressive, liberal Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders – Osborne may never reach his childhood goal.
Corbyn has 5 years to crash and burn, but non-events aside, if his pragmatic and well-tempered inaugural appearance at Prime Minster’s Questions on Wednesday continues alongside a booming Labour membership, Cameron – and Osborne – may well be the ones with all to lose.