So, who saw that coming?
A weekend after one of the greatest electoral shocks of living memory, David Cameron is spending today posing for photos with his new MPs and naming his new cabinet. He’s doing so without Nick Clegg and without the horse-trading that accompanied the formation of the Coalition in 2010. His stock has never been higher.
His political opponents, with the exception of the SNP, are scattered and introspective. The Liberal Democrats, paying a high price for their role in government, have been virtually eviscerated in parliament. UKIP has failed to emerge as the political force last year’s European and local elections promised. And Labour has been left in shock by a defeat that confounded the pollsters, led to the resignation of its leader and left many questioning the future direction of the Party.
There are suggestions George Osborne will present a Conservative budget to the Commons imminently, while the PM is talking about boundary changes that would cement Tory success at the ballot box. Surely all is right with the world in the land of Cameron.
At least for now.
While the Conservative victory was stunning – both in its unexpectedness and the way both Labour and the Lib Dems were brutally dispatched – it might come with longer-term difficulties for the Prime Minister. However welcome the majority is for the Conservatives, it remains slender. And this will have two results. Firstly, it will make the job of the newly appointed Chief Whip Mark Harper both difficult and essential. Secondly, it will increase David Cameron’s reliance on the right of his party.
The right-wingers have already begun to show signs they’re willing to flex their muscle. A report in the Daily Telegraph shows that a number of MPs will demand the Prime Minister makes commitments on defence spending. And during a parliament in which the Government will likely attempt to run an EU referendum, overturn the Human Rights Act and will have to deal with the rise and rise of the SNP, Mr Cameron could find he faces as many threats and challenges from within as from without.
During the last five years, the presence of the Lib Dems in government meant Mr Cameron could explain away Government policies that attracted the ire of the right. He also had sufficient a majority that he wasn’t reliant on the right of his party. Over the next five years, he will be on many occasions. And when that happens, he might miss having the likes of Nick Clegg around.