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Has the Tory Rebellion Over the EU Referendum Vote Fatally Undermined Cameron’s Leadership?

Posted on the 26 October 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Has the Tory rebellion over the EU referendum vote fatally undermined Cameron’s leadership?

Cameron: Taking flak. Photo credit: isafmedia, http://flic.kr/p/8ZdTNv

David Cameron would be forgiven for feeling rather unloved this week. Told to shut up by French President Nicolas Sarkozy; watching as 81 MPs from his own party rebelled against him over the EU referendum vote; is it time for a rethink?

Vulnerable. Matthew Norman argued in The Independent that Cameron has started to look vulnerable: “Some of the gloss has been stripped from him, and you sometimes wonder what there is to Mr Cameron other than gloss.” Norman suggested that Cameron has enjoyed a run of luck as prime minister, but that now this appears to be over, he needs to knuckle down.

‘World class bungling’. A Mirror editorial was scathing about the prime minister’s handling of the EU referendum vote, arguing that his “bully boy tactics” only served to inflame the situation. According to the editorial, Cameron needs to shape up: “With Britain facing a fresh global financial crisis we need top notch leadership not world class bungling.”

Out of the EU. While The Mirror‘s argument was with Cameron’s handling of the situation, rather than with the referendum vote itself, The Daily Express had a different view: “On Monday the motion to hold a referendum was defeated. But it is a defeat that for many will also be seen as part of a process that will ultimately lead to victory for those who want Britain out of the EU.”

“On my part, there is no bad blood, no rancour, no bitterness”, said David Cameron after Tory MPs rebelled over the EU referendum vote.

No bitterness. Writing on a Telegraph blog, Benedict Brogan suggested the prime minster won’t let vindictiveness cloud his handling of the rebel Tories: “Some of those who voted against him might yet find preferment comes their way after a period of calm”, he said. However, Brogan also argued that the Commons rebellion may have given some Tories “a taste of power”, and that in order to counteract this, Cameron needs more heavyweight frontbenchers.

Leadership problem. According to Nicholas Watt in The Guardian, the scale of the rebellion doesn’t just demonstrate that Europe is still a key issue to the Conservative Party; it also shows that “the Cameron circle is seen as aloof from, and out of touch with, the vast majority of Conservative MPs.” Watt wrote that this is partly a perceived class issue: “There is a view that, collectively, Cameron’s circle has no feeling for backbenchers, most of whom were not educated privately”, he said.

Who’s the boss? Writing for The Spectator‘s Coffee House blog, Alex Massie argued that the prime minister shouldn’t go too far in appeasing angry Conservatives: “Where he can, Cameron should manage his party more politely and with greater consideration but where it counts or becomes necessary he should be ruthless with them.” Massie said that “the cult of the leader” has grown alongside with a decline in party loyalty, which makes Cameron “the main show in town.”


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