There will be a great temptation amongst Conservatives to view this as a great victory but it must be remembered that the Tories didn’t exactly win via a swing of the popular vote, but by their opponents collapsing in marginal seats. The Conservatives have a majority because of discrepancies in our voting system, not because they have a popular mandate.
Make no mistake, this will not be an easy parliament for the ‘Natural Party of Government.’
For a start, a majority of twelve can be wiped out in a handful of defections and/or by-elections or by a moderately sized backbench rebellion – all of which are more than likely given the looming debate over Europe, never mind an ongoing constitutional crisis closer to home and a late-term leadership election as David Cameron steps aside as promised.
The parallels with 1992, where the Tories defied the polls to win an election they were expected to lose only to fall apart over Europe and stumble into the next election tired and divided cannot be ignored.
With a majority, the Conservatives now have no option but to press on with their full manifesto, including uncosted promises of £8 billion more for the NHS and £12 billion of cuts to working age benefits, plus continuing to lower taxes. This will be a very difficult thing to do, with any deepening of austerity sure to provoke increasing civil unrest and the sheer economic madness of the policy (for a good explanation of why, see here) surely leading to a catastrophe that massaging employment and growth figures can’t hide before the end of the parliament.
Furthermore, as Scotland and Wales push for more devolved powers and with the Conservative mandate in both nations dubious at best, alongside considerable pressure to reform the voting system and House of Lords, Cameron has to deal with some issues which are anathema to a Conservative PM.
They also have to deliver the promised In-Out referendum on Europe, once David Cameron has attempted to wrest a ‘revised deal’ from the EU which will almost certainly fail to satisfy his own back benches, let alone head off UKIP.
David Cameron has to strike a balance between the factions within his own party and if possible ensure that the succession of leadership is carried out with as little rancor as possible. Labour and the SNP have achieved this in recent times, but it is not historically the Conservative way.
He also has to cut the deficit, cut taxes, cut public spending (but increase the NHS budget) and do it all without having the country fall apart around him.
It’s no easy task, and I’m not minded to make it any easier by getting depressed and disengaging from politics.