Is it necessary for him to be seen to have a victory?
As an ace public relations man nobody is better placed than the Tory leader to understand the problems of holding a party conference when there is little real news about. For unlike last year when there was the excitement of the leadership race this year there’s not a lot happening.
That’s fine except there are hundreds of journalists with them by the seaside all looking for some angle to justify the expense of them being there. So the tax debate is being developed into the “big story” that’s used to illustrate the apparent challenge being faced by Cameron as he seeks to bring about change within his party.
Is it being cynical to suggest that the party leadership have this all worked out knowing that at the end of the day the party will back Cameron? So the more noise and trouble ahead of the debate the greater the victory will appear when it inevitably comes.
It was the same with the Lib Dems a fortnight ago. All the pre-conference briefing was on how Ming Campbell’s tax plans were critical to underlining his leadership. That became the central story and then, low and behold, the vote went with the leadership and all appears well.
Polly Toynbee in the Guardian describes it like this “Look what happened in the standing-room-only meeting where George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, was trying to explain why promising tax cuts now would be a very bad idea. They didn’t agree, but was he bothered? No, he loved it…Just remember this, he added, “There is no such thing as a tax-cutting shadow chancellor, only a tax-cutting chancellor.” And he promised again: “We will reduce public spending as a share of GDP over the economic cycle..So never mind what a party wants, Tony Blair showed how to treat them. Beat them into submission..”.
Away from the Tories the only interesting thing happening on the betting markets is a further easing in the Gordon Brown price to succeed Tony Blair. It’s now moved out to 0.56/1.