We all remember the famous James Landale interview with Cameron pre-election. Or do we do so correctly? Dave, chilling out in his kitchen, a man of the people, said this about his near future political ambitions:
“Terms are like Shredded wheat. Two are wonderful, three might just be too many.”
The rumour mill started immediately after this hit the public, of course. Modern day prime ministers, when asked about their political mortality, are supposed to reply that they intend to live forever (politically speaking). So once Cameron speculated that he wouldn’t stand for a third term as PM, this was taken to mean much more than that. There came a rumour that seemed to solidify into fact somehow that Cameron wouldn’t even serve his next full term (even though during that very same Landale interview, he said in unqualified language that he would unquestionably see out another five years if asked by the voters of the country to do so).
Now Number 10 is putting out noises that Cameron very well might lead the Tories into the next general election; which, if he was up for it, they would be mad to stop him from doing. David Cameron has an aura of prime ministerial-ness in an age when such a thing is in very short supply. And when you look at the other contenders, you realise just how vital Cameron almost certainly was to the party getting that slim majority in May. Osborne is competent but managerial, lacking leadership level charisma. Boris is popular, but exudes no gravitas. Theresa May is too alienating to swing voters. Anyone else would almost certainly be too right-wing for the Conservatives to keep pulling in the shy Tory vote in the numbers seen this year. So it’s a huge risk, ditching Dave if he wishes to plod on – and isn’t the Conservative Party ultimately about avoiding risk if at all possible (which sort of doesn’t explain the whole EU referendum thing, but never mind that for now)?
The danger for Cameron, strangely enough, lies in a Corbyn leadership victory. If a large group of backbench Tory MPs think that the Conservatives have the next election in the bag regardless, they may be tempted to think they no longer need Cameron – if the Tories are going to win anyhow, why not do so with a “true blue” as opposed to the whigish Cameron?
They’d be mad to do so, as I said but mad things do indeed happen in politics (see: 2016, EU referendum, Cameron pledge to hold it). Who knows: perhaps David Cameron will still be prime minister in ten years time. Before those on the left recoil in horror at this prospect, imagine if instead of him it was Theresa May. Or Owen Paterson, for that matter.