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Can David Cameron Survive 2013?

21/01/2013 12:41 GMT | Updated 22/03/2013 09:12 GMT

According to Conservative Home a 'rebel reserve' of 55 Conservative MP's is waiting in the wings to launch an audacious bid to oust David Cameron from office. Maybe the number is a little on the high side but surely there can be little doubt that the discontent on the Conservative benches is real. It is in fact so real that Cameron has become noticeably inward looking. Witness the coverage of his upcoming speech on the European Union which, it was earnestly promised, would please all "but the most hardcore" Conservative MP's. He is, to coin a phrase, increasingly, in office, but not in government.

Cameron and indeed his Conservatism is pitched as being modern but, in actual fact, belongs to a bygone age. His whole 'Big Society' concept reeks of the patronising kind of thing that the benign aristocracy have been spoon-feeding the masses long before it was a blue twinkle Steve Hilton and Cameron's collective eye. Margaret Thatcher fundamentally changed the sociological composition and orientation of the Conservative Party reducing the aristocratic element to a rump. He has therefore been a fish out of water ever since he won the leadership and has failed to change the Conservative Party in the way Tony Blair did the Labour Party. His changes have been skin deep and for cosmetic purposes only as, for example, the debate over gay marriage has shown. Rather than carry the party with him as Blair did over Clause IV (it is often forgotten that Blair also won significant backing from the trade union movement as well), Cameron has had to fight constantly against his party and it looks like in the parliamentary vote, the government will be heavily reliant on Labour and Liberal Democrat support to win the day.

In another area Cameron is also a pale imitation of Tony Blair, and it is the one that is the main yardstick any leader of any party is judged by, that is in terms of electoral results. Let's be honest, up against an incumbent Labour government that was looking tired in office, with a prime minister not exactly well-loved (but admittedly not as universally loathed as John Major and his Conservatives were in 1997), Cameron's blue team should have done alot better than to land in a now totally loveless coalition with the Liberal Democrats. I suspect many Conservatives are, in their heart-of-hearts, totally aware of this and therefore bitterly resentful of the prime ministers ultimate failure to deliver their '97 moment' to them.

This is what ultimately will terminate the Cameron leadership. Results, results and damn results. Sure, his backbenchers care about his perceived wooly liberalism on gay marriage and the fact that he doesn't share their wide-eyed hatred of all things continental. They also care that he was born with a silver spoon waiting for him and that he simply is out of touch with the mainstream Conservative ethos of do-right, aspirational Thatcherism, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and braces, but ultimately what they care about most of all is keeping their jobs. If enough of them become convinced he is not the person to keep them in a job then it really is game over for Cameron. The Conservative Party loves power, indeed, most Conservatives see it and statecraft secretly as their birthright and if that is threatened... well hell hath no fury like the Conservative Party scorned; ask the lady herself, Margaret Thatcher, ask John Major, surrounded as he always was by plotting and conniving b*******.

Labour should however beware. Although it is fantastically good fun watching the Conservative Party pull itself apart, it should not underestimate its opponents survival instincts and ability to turn round a sticky situation. Getting rid of Cameron could be the shot in the arm that the blue team need, especially against an opposition that has the public ear after last year but has yet to summon up widespread enthusiasm for its own vision of where Britain should be headed. Now Labour should be putting a Plan B in place, working-up the strategic responses to Cameron's likely successors just in case the axe does fall and the Conservative Party finally rids itself of a leader it has never truly accepted as one of its own.