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Where Does David Cameron Go From Here?

22/05/2013 15:54 BST | Updated 21/07/2013 10:12 BST
AP

Writing on the BBC website on Monday, its political editor Nick Robinson believes that Prime Minister David Cameron has a real problem on his hands in trying to maintain his credibility among the grassroots of the Conservative Party.

Robinson is not alone in acknowledging the fact that David Cameron's ability to exert influence (leadership) over the whole of the organisation that is the Tory party is becoming strained.

He became leader after others had led the party to defeat at successive general elections but, as many commentators have identified, despite the 'toff' image he has desperately tried to act a moderniser. As Tony Blair had so masterfully shown for those who could appeal to the 'centre-ground' of British politics where elections are won and lost there was the possibility of a return to power after 13 years in opposition.

And so we had saw David in various guises that were intended to show that he was compassionate and willing to embrace change in a way that previous leaders would have found uncomfortable; who can forget William Hague's ridiculous attempt to 'get down' with the kids by wearing a baseball cap?

That David Cameron was young and handsome helped. As did the fact that he had an attractive young wife.

But as Nick Robinson believes, he was never really loved by the party in the way that, for instance, Margaret Thatcher was; especially in the shires where there is an inherent reluctance to engage in cosmopolitan ways and attitudes.

However, as long as Cameron could deliver an election victory they would turn a blind eye.

And this is where things have gone wrong for the Prime Minister. He didn't so much win as simply accept power on the basis that the electorate no longer wanted Labour led by Gordon Brown who never had the charisma of Tony Blair.

Selling a coalition to his own party was no mean feat for Cameron. Tories have always tended to distrust the Liberal Democrats as being 'wishy-washy'. The trouble for Cameron is that in order to keep create the Coalition he had to give cabinet seats to senior Liberal Democrats such as, of course, Nick Clegg and Vince Cable.

And to keep the coalition together he has had to try and face in too many different directions. One suspects that even Tony Blair with his apparent innate ability to please across the political spectrum would have had difficulty doing what Cameron has achieved.

What Cameron has not been able to deliver is the promise that austerity would cure the economic problems though many of his party probably think that the cuts have not been savage enough.

Robinson believes that the 'bedrock' Conservative Party members have had enough. They never really wanted the coalition and believe that too many cherished principles have been sacrificed. The gay marriage vote is not quite the 'last straw' but it goes against the grain.

Like previous Tory leaders, including Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher and John Major, it is our relationship with Europe that may saw the seeds of his downfall.

Though Cameron appears not to be avidly anti-EU, he has to try and talk tough in the hope that this will appease the Eurosceptics in his party.

But talk is no longer enough and there is an increasing clamour for action in the form of a referendum which, potentially could result in our withdrawal. And the Eurosceptics want this vote sooner than after the next election which, in all likelihood, the Conservatives will not win outright.

What is worse is that disgruntled Tories have an alternative in the form of UKIP a party which Cameron appears to find distasteful though he might be forced to negotiate with Nigel Farage.

His options are limited by the fact that though he wants to keep the coalition together he increasingly needs to say some radical things to deal with the UKIP threat. Many political commentators believe that whatever Cameron says, it is too late and he cannot win back the support of the membership of his party.

David Cameron is now beginning to look isolated and though it is highly unlikely that he will be replaced before the next election it is not beyond the bounds of possibility.

Like many other leaders who have not been able to achieve the expected success he may feel that he has little to lose and be tempted to do something radical.

For all our sakes let's hope that he doesn't succumb to pressure to have a referendum on Europe until at least there is better information provided to the vast majority of, I believe, see the EU at being at best irrelevant and, at worst, consisting of interfering foreigners who imposition of rules potentially undermining the British way of life.

Those of Edward Heath's generation had seen first-hand the consequences of conflict in Europe. This is what made him such a staunch advocate of membership of what was then called 'the Common Market'.

Cameron probably knows that leaving the EU would be disrespectful to those who suffered so much to create the (largely) united and peaceful Europe of today.

What is certain, though, is that Cameron faces some really tough choices about the sort of leadership he wishes to pursue from now on.

What is equally certain, though, is that he cannot maintain the belief that he leads a party that is fully behind him.