Leaders: Cameron must make his mark or face the fall-out
ONE of the by-products of a successful Cabinet reshuffle is a sense of a team strengthened and unity of purpose restored. Ominously, there has been little sign of either since Prime Minister David Cameron’s reshuffle last week.
Indeed, it has, if anything, deepened the mood of fractious unease among backbench Conservatives as to the leadership calibre of Mr Cameron and the direction in which he is taking the government.
That said, it is very unlikely much will come of the reported approach to the Conservative MP Colonel Bob Stewart sounding him out on whether he would prepared to stand as a “stalking horse” challenge to the leadership. There is not, or not yet, either a credible candidate to stand against the PM or a credible alternative programme around which MPs could unite.
The mood of disaffection is not yet as widespread or advanced as to crystallise a serious threat to Mr Cameron’s position. Nevertheless, the fact that there are such mutterings on the fringes will be a reminder to him that loyalty, particularly that of demoted Cabinet ministers, can be a fickle and treacherous thing. Former Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan has called the London to Birmingham high- speed rail project a terrible idea after her sacking from the Cabinet and now plans to go to war on this issue. There are numerous Conservative MPs whose constituencies will be affected, so she will not be without support from within the Tory camp.
Arguably more serious is the potential threat to the Prime Minister from Boris Johnson. He has seized upon last week’s dismissal of Transport Secretary Justine Greening to attack what he sees as an attempt by the PM to put the third Heathrow runway back on the agenda. To this Ms Greening (a local MP) and Mr Johnson (championing an alternative airport site) are strongly opposed. Bearing in mind that opposition to a third runway was official Conservative Party policy at the last election, who is the loyalist and who the rebel in this looming battle is moot.
Mr Johnson, of course, is not in any position to mount a leadership challenge, not being an MP. But talk that he is looking for a constituency adds further fuel to this smouldering autumnal pile.
Reports have been circulating that the reshuffle was a messy affair, with Cabinet ministers resisting the PM’s intent to stand them down, while the offer of honours to discarded ministers has not enhanced his standing. On the contrary, the PM’s opponents sense weakness. Mr Cameron needs to snuff this impression out with an exemplary performance at the party conference in a few weeks. He is a gifted and impressive speaker. But he now needs to breathe real conviction and fire into his words – and to back these up with equally firm and decisive actions. His premiership is in danger of failing because he has done so little with his time in Downing Street. It is time he started to make a mark.
Paralympians prove what’s possible
AFTER the stunning triumph of the main Olympics it was hard to imagine that the Paralympics would come to provide a match in terms of spectacle and achievement. But that is what has been achieved. The athletes opened the eyes of the world, not only to outstanding athletic prowess but also to what is possible: not the limitations of disability but a thrilling display of what is possible and of what can be done with skill, talent – and determination.
It is hard to recall the mood across much of Britain barely a month or so ago that was so doubtful of what the Games would achieve and sceptical that they would commend the attention other than among dedicated athletic followers. Then there were the fears that London would not be able to cope; that there would be some awful transport snarl-up. Games doubters were legion.
In the event, London performed stunningly well; thousands of volunteers helped visitors to find their way round the city while the Games themselves captured the attention – and imagination – of millions. And nowhere was this more true than the Paralympics which enjoyed by far their largest audience ever.
That the coverage both in the print media and on television has been so extensive is a direct reflection of the displays of skill and talent by the athletes. The doubters turned into dancers of delight. And indeed it is hard to think of any suggestion for improvement in what has become the most watched event in the world. The Paralympics have not only raised aspirations among the disabled but have shown everyone that what is humanly possible lies well above what we thought just a few days ago.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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