Andrew Whitaker: Europe still looms for Cameron

David Cameron greets Wimbledon winner Andy Murray. Picture: PA
David Cameron greets Wimbledon winner Andy Murray. Picture: PA
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DAVID Cameron has had one of the best weeks of his premiership and arguably of his eight-year tenure as Tory leader.

Ed Miliband is on the ropes in a way he’s never been before and the Prime Minister has dined out lavishly on his opposite number’s difficulties.

Mr Cameron also looked to be hugely enjoying himself as he lined up with Wimbledon hero Andy Murray for the obligatory publicity shot on the Downing Street doorsteps.

Many observers could be forgiven for thinking Mr Cameron is on his way to an election victory in two years’ time.

It’s almost as if people have forgotten about the unpopularity associated with his government’s deep cuts to public services and controversial policies such as the bedroom tax.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that it’s now more than 20 years since the Conservative Party last won a General Election outright – that should be a sobering thought for a party that was once such a formidable election winning machine.

Mr Cameron was unable to win a majority at the last election despite being pitted against an unpopular prime minister in Gordon Brown and despite having more than four years as opposition leader to make his case – a period longer than Tony Blair had prior to Labour’s 1997 landslide.

True, there are still two years to go before the next general election, and Mr Miliband shows signs of capitulating to the Tories on issues such as Labour’s union links and the benefit cap along similar lines to the policy shifts of Neil Kinnock ahead of his ill-fated attempts to become prime minister in 1987 and 1992.

However, it’s hard to see what seismic political events will lead to the Tories doing better at the next election than they did in 2010 – something that Mr Cameron has to deliver if he is to win outright. The cuts to public services, high unemployment, job insecurity and squeezed living standards are more likely to determine how people vote than a row over how Labour selects its candidates. Bill Clinton’s maxim that “It’s the economy, stupid” as he forced out George HW Bush from the White House after just one term, against the backdrop of an ailing US economy, could not be more apt.

Mr Cameron also faces difficulties over the Europe issue and despite his pledge for an in-out referendum if re-elected, it’s still the case that a significant number of Tory backbenchers want the UK to withdraw from the EU - a position at odds with the Prime Minister’s view.

There is also the spectre of the anti-EU Ukip, which has already successfully managed to outflank the Tories on the Right in a number of by-elections and council polls.

Ukip is also likely to fare well at next year’s Euro elections, but the real danger to Mr Cameron is the possibility that Nigel Farage’s party could split the right-wing vote in marginal constituencies and help hand victory to Labour in 2015.