No-one has been more effusive in their praise of Margaret Thatcher since her death on Monday than David Cameron, but early signs suggest that the seismic event has not been a positive event for his party. A YouGov poll conducted between Tuesday and Wednesday sees the Tories dropping to a record low of 28%, 14pts behind Labour. YouGov wasn’t the only one – the latest polls from Opinium and TNS BMRB also show the Conservatives will their lowest ever share in their surveys. With a host of political activity occurring since Monday, and the country ablaze with political discussions relating to her legacy, it is interesting to explore why this is the case.
Firstly, the praise of Thatcher as a ‘conviction leader’ has put Cameron himself into stark contrast with her, given his – necessarily – consensus-driven coalition and a host of policy u-turns when initial public opinion has been negative. Thatcher’s three election victories are also another reminder to Conservative supporters that Cameron failed to secure one of his own when Labour were there for the taking. This adds up to dissatisfaction for natural Tory voters. On the flip side, the discussion of the negative elements of Thatcher’s reign may have reminded Tory target voters in the centre and soft-right of the sometimes bloody changes that a Tory majority government in full flight can visit on the country.
As if this wasn’t enough, the controversial recall of parliament – a move which could, surely, have been delayed – was led by Cameron, thus he will bear the brunt of the criticism. The grand scale and expense of next Wednesday’s funeral will do likewise. In Cameron’s defence, there is nothing he can do about the comparisons. The parliament recall, however, was arguably an avoidable error and a misjudgement of public opinion. Put together, the effect of Thatcher’s death has been unexpectedly negative for the party and for Cameron at a time which Tories would have previously expected to be an occasion that would unify the party and promote their values.