Cameron will need the iron will and discipline that kept Blair in power
IT was 3am on election night when David Cameron turned to his trusted communications chief Craig Oliver and said: “We’d better write an acceptance speech. What will I say?”
The pair were holed up in the upstairs gym of the Windrush Leisure Centre in Witney, Oxon, watching the map of England turn Tory blue on a giant TV screen.
This was the moment when it finally dawned on Mr Cameron that he’d done it – he’d defied all the odds and won an outright Conservative majority.
Like all good communications consultants, Mr Oliver asked one simple question: “What’s in your heart?”
“One nation”, replied the PM.
This is how the Premier fixed his sights on what the Tories are now hoping will be the next decade running Britain.
Mr Cameron has been livid ever since Ed Miliband sought to brand Labour the party of one nation three years ago. His enemies have accused him of governing for the wealthy and elite – his rich pals. Yet the PM believes his policies are aimed at the tens of millions of people who live “normal” lives.
And so his mission is to deliver “something for everyone” throughout Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Life.
Where you will be born into a properly-funded NHS; guaranteed a great education, a university place, training or apprenticeship, help to buy a first home, the security needed to provide for a family.
Where your earnings are yours to spend, not the government’s, and where the State accepts you are responsible enough to manage your money in retirement. This is how the PM plans to occupy the centre ground.
Some critics on his own side accuse him of lacking a grand vision, a bigger plan. Even as the results flooded in the early hours of May 8, I took part in a radio discussion with David Mellor outside Parliament. The former Cabinet minister was astonishingly dismissive of the first Conservative leader in 23 years to have won an outright majority.
Yet Mr Cameron is clear. What grander mission can there be than ensuring security and opportunity for all?
The PM has teed up a golden opportunity for his Party. Get this right, and the Tories should be in power for 10 years. You can do an awful lot in a decade. He must now convince his MPs and supporters to seize the chance by exercising the kind of iron will and discipline that kept Tony Blair in power for three General Elections on the trot.
The Labour Party are likely to spend years asking themselves the questions they should have answered in 2010. The Liberal Democrats appear to be finished. Mr Cameron knows he broke through the finishing tape on May 8 but he’s kept on running.
Momentum must be maintained otherwise opportunities to shape Britain economically and socially will be lost.
Perhaps as importantly, so will the Conservative Party’s golden shot at governing for a generation.
The PM and his team are acutely aware of the dangers. They will not pretend that troubles won’t come. Troubles will come. Putting the uber-organised and disciplined Mark Harper in the Chief Whip’s chair is about keeping the troops in line.
Harper is also a known constitutional expert. A whole host of tricky problems are facing this government on constitutional grounds. Not least of which is bringing in a Bill of Rights in the teeth of opposition from lawyers on the Tory benches.
Mr Cameron is determined on this issue. It’s a campaign he’s determined to win. Talk to the Premier and his view is crystal clear. Britain has enjoyed the rule of law since Magna Carta, upheld by an independent judiciary. We don’t need to be ruled by those from other countries.
But there are certain battles that must be fought now, to maintain momentum. And others where charging at the enemy would be folly. Get the argument right before taking it to opponents who have a strong and entrenched point of view.
Much more important to go for an EU referendum, win it, and move on. Why shouldn’t this national vote take place in May next year?
The machinery of government is gearing up for a “yes” vote to keep Britain in the EU. Even Rupert Murdoch is said to be supportive, so long as Mr Cameron can renegotiate Britain’s relationship in a tangible way.
Get this right and Mr Cameron can go on ruling Britain for as long as he wishes.
Which raises another question: how will the Conservative Party plan for leadership change in a world where Mr Cameron has vowed not to go on and on? Or did the commentators make too much of his BBC kitchen-sink interview with James Landale?
I’ve seen a number of PMs come and go. None ever walked out of no10 willingly.