Keep Calm and Carry On

This has been the overriding sentiment conveyed by Conservative central command since last Friday.

Media stories in the last two days have claimed that the Tories suspected, a full week before the election, that the final polling numbers would work to their benefit and deliver a victory, but nobody seriously took that for granted.

This is always the way with general elections. Prepare for the unexpected and don’t believe the result until the figures are there in black and white. Notoriously, Tony Blair couldn’t believe the exit poll in 1997 which forecasted a massive Labour landslide, preferring to place his confidence in the constituency results as they came through one by one. But once those results become concrete, victory is sweet. For the Conservatives bound by the shackles of coalition over the last five years, it feels like liberation.

Commentators were swift to jump on the fragility of the majority (twelve seats), but to the Conservative parliamentary party and David Cameron won’t care at all. They have been returned to government by themselves, with more seats and a mandate to deliver on their manifesto commitments. This already feels like the high point of the second Cameron administration and it’s less than a week old.

But why such a short honeymoon period? Simple, Mr Cameron’s in-tray contains a number of issues so intractable for some members of his party; he’s going to have to discharge superhuman powers just trying to keep his party together over the next few years.

What is startling is that he is the architect of so many of these issues. From delivering an EU referendum, a new British Bill of Rights, devolving increased fiscal powers to Scotland and implementing potentially £12billion in public spending cuts by 2018, Mr. Cameron faces a rocky road ahead.

Moreover, while the Conservatives enjoy hegemony in the House of Commons, we should expect the opposition parties in the Lords (especially the Lib Dems) to be champing at the bit to hold this new executive to account. Hold on, it’s going to be a roller-coaster ride for everyone involved.

Rupert Lewis is a Practice Director in the Corporate & Public Affairs Practice at Ketchum Pleon in London. He specialises in public affairs and reputation management and has worked with clients in most sectors including financial services, infrastructure, manufacturing, telecoms and gaming. When he’s not talking politics, he’s supporting Fulham FC or winning (mainly!) money on racetracks. Follow him @rupertlewis