What would happen if -- if! -- Cameron can’t form a government this week?

Could the Tory party be finished for ever?

Let me preface this by saying that David Cameron may well be prime minister by the end of the week. However . . .

At the end of my piece for the magazine out today, I touch on what might happen if he fails to form a government this week, speculating that -- after the Tories pursued a "core vote" strategy in 2001 and 2005, and were then seen (wrongly, in my view) to have "modernised" fundamentally in 2010 -- they would struggle to know where to turn.

Already, the recriminations have begun on the Thatcherite right of the party, saying Cameron should have stuck to harder-line policies. But in reality, he has, on every issue from tax to Europe to immigration to welfare to the family, and -- as I have always said about Cameron -- if he loses it will be not because he changed his party too much, but because he didn't change it enough.

Nonetheless, the likelihood is surely that, thanks to the blanket media narrative that has declared him a "moderniser" and a centrist, the party will once again lurch to the right, possibly under the leadership of David Davis or Liam Fox.

That is if Cameron goes, of course. But as I point out in the piece, the Tories are much more ruthless than Labour about getting rid of leaders who fail. Some say the "men in grey suits" could move in swiftly for the kill.

But there is no doubt that Cameron has performed extremely competently if not wisely as leader, and a party that has become so used to depending on his personality may baulk at the prospect of getting rid of him.

As a senior backbencher told me, the "problem" is that, as Mehdi Hasan explains here, the goalposts have been shifted so far between where they were months ago, when many people expected Cameron to win by a landslide, and now, when some would regard a hung parliament as a success for him.

Nonetheless, having been seen to have tried every strategy, the Tories would be in crisis -- and perhaps be finished for good as a force in their own right -- if they don't win this week. However, as I said at the beginning, Cameron may well win on Thursday, and win big. We shall see.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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The government needs more on airports than just Chris Grayling's hunch

This disastrous plan to expand Heathrow will fail, vows Tom Brake. 

I ought to stop being surprised by Theresa May’s decision making. After all, in her short time as Prime Minister she has made a series of terrible decisions. First, we had Chief Buffoon, Boris Johnson appointed as Foreign Secretary to represent the United Kingdom around the world. Then May, announced full steam ahead with the most extreme version of Brexit, causing mass economic uncertainty before we’ve even begun negotiations with the EU. And now we have the announcement that expansion of Heathrow Airport, in the form of a third runway, will go ahead: a colossally expensive, environmentally disastrous, and ill-advised decision.

In the House of Commons on Tuesday, I asked Transport Secretary Chris Grayling why the government is “disregarding widespread hostility and bulldozing through a third runway, which will inflict crippling noise, significant climate change effects, health-damaging air pollution and catastrophic congestion on a million Londoners.” His response was nothing more than “because we don’t believe it’s going to do those things.”

I find this astonishing. It appears that the government is proceeding with a multi-billion pound project with Grayling’s beliefs as evidence. Why does the government believe that a country of our size should focus on one major airport in an already overcrowded South East? Germany has multiple major airports, Spain three, the French, Italians, and Japanese have at least two. And I find it astonishing that the government is paying such little heed to our legal and moral environmental obligations.

One of my first acts as an MP nineteen years ago was to set out the Liberal Democrat opposition to the expansion of Heathrow or any airport in southeast England. The United Kingdom has a huge imbalance between the London and the South East, and the rest of the country. This imbalance is a serious issue which our government must get to work remedying. Unfortunately, the expansion of Heathrow does just the opposite - it further concentrates government spending and private investment on this overcrowded corner of the country.

Transport for London estimates that to make the necessary upgrades to transport links around Heathrow will be £10-£20 billion pounds. Heathrow airport is reportedly willing to pay only £1billion of those costs. Without upgrades to the Tube and rail links, the impact on London’s already clogged roads will be substantial. Any diversion of investment from improving TfL’s wider network to lines serving Heathrow would be catastrophic for the capital. And it will not be welcomed by Londoners who already face a daily ordeal of crowded tubes and traffic-delayed buses. In the unlikely event that the government agrees to fund this shortfall, this would be salt in the wound for the South-West, the North, and other parts of the country already deprived of funding for improved rail and road links.

Increased congestion in the capital will not only raise the collective blood pressure of Londoners, but will have severe detrimental effects on our already dire levels of air pollution. During each of the last ten years, air pollution levels have been breached at multiple sites around Heathrow. While a large proportion of this air pollution is caused by surface transport serving Heathrow, a third more planes arriving and departing adds yet more particulates to the air. Even without expansion, it is imperative that we work out how to clean this toxic air. Barrelling ahead without doing so is irresponsible, doing nothing but harm our planet and shorten the lives of those living in west London.

We need an innovative, forward-looking strategy. We need to make transferring to a train to Cardiff after a flight from Dubai as straightforward and simple as transferring to another flight is now. We need to invest in better rail links so travelling by train to the centre of Glasgow or Edinburgh is quicker than flying. Expanding Heathrow means missing our climate change targets is a certainty; it makes life a misery for those who live around the airport and it diverts precious Government spending from other more worthy projects.

The Prime Minister would be wise to heed her own advice to the 2008 government and “recognise widespread hostility to Heathrow expansion.” The decision to build a third runway at Heathrow is the wrong one and if she refuses to U-turn she will soon discover the true extent of the opposition to these plans.

Tom Brake is the Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton & Wallington.