Cameron’s biggest test

David Cameron never had his “Clause Four” moment. He now has the chance of one, by forcing his party

David Cameron never did have his "Clause Four" moment during the four and a half years of his supposedly "modernising" leadership, which is one of the reasons why the Tories did not win the election. Now, at the very last minute, he has the opportunity for one.

It is clear that the Tory party is trying hard to stop Cameron offering electoral reform to the Liberal Democrats (just as the Lib Dems are doubtless trying hard to prevent Nick Clegg from abandoning it). Even that celebrated "Tory wet", Michael Heseltine has said:

I don't think for a minute that David Cameron will concede change to the voting system and I don't think that he needs to. His position is much stronger than I think the commentators give credit for.

Hmm. I actually suspect that the Tory-Liberal talks are much more perilous and tricky than many commentators, mainly on the right, are making out, as a sense of inevitably is spun to propel Cameron into No 10. The reason for my suspicion is the proportional representation question.

It would be dishonest of me to pretend not to think that a "progressive alliance" between Labour, the Lib Dems and others would be better for Britain than a Tory-Liberal one. But if the Lib Dems really are going to hook up with the Tories -- and I believe it is still an "if" -- then Cameron will finally have had his Clause Four moment by forcing his party to adapt to a new reality, of which he seems keenly aware.

Two caveats, however. First, if the Tories campaign against electoral reform, having delivered a referendum, that would not only undermine the whole concept, but also show the Lib Dems to have sold themselves hopelessly short. Second, Cameron has shown impressive adaptability in the past few days, but all the signs from the past suggest that he will be unable to take on the right of the parliamentary party he meets this evening.

The question Cameron will be putting to his party is: does it want power, or purity? Time will tell.

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James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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Donald Trump's healthcare failure could be to his advantage

The appearance of weakness is less electorally damaging than actually removing healthcare from millions of people.

Good morning. Is it all over for Donald Trump? His approval ratings have cratered to below 40%. Now his attempt to dismantle Barack Obama's healthcare reforms have hit serious resistance from within the Republican Party, adding to the failures and retreats of his early days in office.

The problem for the GOP is that their opposition to Obamacare had more to do with the word "Obama" than the word "care". The previous President opted for a right-wing solution to the problem of the uninsured in a doomed attempt to secure bipartisan support for his healthcare reform. The politician with the biggest impact on the structures of the Affordable Care Act is Mitt Romney.

But now that the Republicans control all three branches of government they are left in a situation where they have no alternative to Obamacare that wouldn't either a) shred conservative orthodoxies on healthcare or b) create numerous and angry losers in their constituencies. The difficulties for Trump's proposal is that it does a bit of both.

Now the man who ran on his ability to cut a deal has been forced to make a take it or leave plea to Republicans in the House of Representatives: vote for this plan or say goodbye to any chance of repealing Obamacare.

But that's probably good news for Trump. The appearance of weakness and failure is less electorally damaging than actually succeeding in removing healthcare from millions of people, including people who voted for Trump.

Trump won his first term because his own negatives as a candidate weren't quite enough to drag him down on a night when he underperformed Republican candidates across the country. The historical trends all make it hard for a first-term incumbent to lose. So far, Trump's administration is largely being frustrated by the Republican establishment though he is succeeding in leveraging the Presidency for the benefit of his business empire.

But it may be that in the failure to get anything done he succeeds in once again riding Republican coattails to victory in 2020.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.