David Cameron Likely Britain's Next PM, But He May Yet Blow the Chance

At the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, UK, leader David Cameron announced his interest in becoming the UK’s next prime minister come the general election. It’s not far off, as it has to occur by the first week in May 2010, and it is pretty clear that Labour under their current leader will not win. This past set of “party conferences” are the last ones, for all parties, until the general election.

Cameron needed to deliver the speech of his career. For the most part, observers -- especially those more aligned to the party -- agree that he delivered what he needed. His political opponents are apoplectic about his “attack on the state,” as one would expect.

The conventional wisdom now predicts David Cameron and his party will storm to a huge victory in the elections, whenever they might occur. However, there are some factors that may urge caution.

Labour might change leaders between now and the election. They know that Gordon Brown, barring a miracle, would go down to a crushing defeat and cost many a Labour MP his seat. Their clamoring for change was mostly pacified at their party conference, but as their doom looms larger and larger, it seems hard to believe they will not attempt to rid themselves of the loathed Brown.

There is no guarantee that any other leader would win the general election and keep Labour in power -- in fact, it is almost certain they would not. However, a new leader might be able to significantly reduce the majority held by David Cameron. It is even possible that there might be a “hung” parliament, where no party has overall control. This would bring up the possibility of a “minority” government, which are notoriously weak. Worse, it could lead to a “coalition” government made up of everyone who wants to keep the Conservatives out of government.

There is another problem for Cameron. While his speech riled his activists, it did not necessarily have the same effect on the populace. In fact, over the course of the Conservative Party conference the Conservative lead in the polls was reduced.

There are several factors that might have caused this. Cameron has a very hard time appealing to the working class of the UK. What many people remember is that Margaret Thatcher, another prime minister who came in after a run of Labour government, appealed to the working classes. Some of her appeal came from her humble background. (Thatcher is the daughter of a green grocer.)

Cameron, on the other hand, is straight from the pages of P. G. Wodehouse. While at Oxford, he was a member -- along with Shadow Chancellor George Osborne and London Mayor Boris Johnson -- of the ultra-exclusive Bullingdon Club. (A good comparison would be the Skull & Bones secret society at Yale.) He is a direct descendant of Queen Victoria’s uncle, King William IV, and his mother was the daughter of a baronet.