Only now in David Cameron’s third term as leader of the Conservatives has he got what he wants, a United Kingdom led by a majority Conservative Government. Now, he faces three questions that will define his legacy

 

  • The economy:
    • The Tory campaign ahead of the 2015 General Election centred on its strong economic record.
    • Conservatives have essentially explained that: ‘without a strong economy to fund the welfare state, ideological posturing from the Left is redundant—and only we [the Conservatives] can be trusted with the economy’.
    • A sceptical electorate has been convinced thus far, but if the economy—the central plank on which the Conservative argument rests—falters, then Cameron’s welfare and NHS cuts will be viewed in significantly harsher terms.
    • George Osborne’s latest Budget confirmed record employment figures, a fall in inflation and that the UK economy continues to grow 2.6 per cent, down on 3 per cent predictions, but still the fastest growing in the developed world.
    • No electorate enjoys austerity, so these figures are vital. If the path to prosperity wavers, this could undermine the entire right-wing movement and, therefore, David Cameron’s legacy.

 

  • The European Union:
    • Surely the PM’s greatest challenge, with no referendum on the UK’s membership in the EU for a generation. David Cameron will lead the campaign to ‘stay’ in the union.
    • Eurosceptics believe that too much new legislation in the UK is handed down from EU headquarters in Brussels. Prominent Eurosceptic, Jacob Rees-Mogg (Con; NE Somerset), puts the figure at over 60 per cent and condemns the ‘notoriously sclerotic’ European Union.
    • Boris Johnson articulates this ‘Faustian pact of the EU’ thusly: ‘you surrender something precious in the form of national autonomy—and everyone is meant to be richer’.
    • Britain cannot restrict freedom of movement and Eurosceptics warn of the challenge this will pose to public services.
    • Cameron will seek to make the ‘Brexit’ appear risky—the tactic he used in the Scottish referendum. Though Eurosceptics believe Commonwealth partners to be viable trade partners, it is likely the UK’s global standing would diminish in the event of an exit.
    • No leader wants to be remembered for overseeing what is, if Cameron is correct, a risky and self-defeating EU departure, so the stakes are high.

 

  • Scotland:
    • If the UK leaves the EU, the chances of another Scottish referendum will increase.
    • Though Cameron has ruled out another independence referendum, how he deals with the SNP, in terms of the EU and domestic issues, will sow the seeds for the next decade, with regards to how Westminster’s relationship with Scotland progresses.
    • Scotland—prickly and pro EU as it is—will scorn the legitimacy of a government that takes such a big decision that is entirely opposed to its own wishes.
    • The SNP won an historic 56 seats in May’s General Election and is the fiercest, most urgent voice in British politics, led by the formidable Nicola Sturgeon. Further devolution is unlikely to satiate Scottish hunger for autonomy, so this must be a careful balancing act.
    • Perhaps, Labour must seek to regain lost seats north of the border, as with the Tories in the Scottish wilderness, the SNP will otherwise dictate affairs.
    • Labour will be key to the cooling of nationalist fervour, as the SNP—a left-wing party—is most likely to lose votes to a party that can promise a more compelling left-wing vision. Enter Jeremy Corbyn
    • This also relates to Cameron’s legacy, because for Scotland to leave or sever further ties with Westminster on his watch would reflect badly on his leadership.

Whether or not David Cameron can succeed in these three areas while being ideologically challenged by the new Labour leader, will be quite fascinating.