It could have been so different. With the Europe question still alive and whispers of a leadership challenge against him, David Cameron has emerged somewhat unscathed from what could have been a terrible few weeks in office. Since achieving praise for his recent speech on the UK's relationship with the European Union where he threatened an in/out referendum by 2017 if treaty changes are not granted, Cameron has demonstrated strong leadership at testing times, despite perhaps not being the most popular Tory in his party. His Europe speech could have been a disaster met with mass opposition; however, surprisingly it turned out to please a number of his party sceptics. Although there have been visible differences over the Europe question within the Conservatives, a number of leading Tory MPs have stressed that they stand by the PM in his quest for a change in the UK's membership with the union.
Tuesday this week saw the controversial gay marriage bill easily passed in the Commons, despite a large number of Tories openly expressing their concerns with the proposal. Indeed, many spoke of their worries in the debate which preceded the vote, though this did not stop the bill from going through. This, plus Education Secretary Michael Gove's U-turn on changes to GCSE examinations could have brought even more bad press for the Tories, but instead, Cameron has graced the headlines as he makes history in Brussels.
Meeting with EU leaders to negotiate new budget payments could have been another calamity for the PM. The summit was the first since his Europe speech which despite its modest success has been met with hostility from other EU leaders, especially French President François Hollande. It was feared that following threats to leave the union, Britain would lose influence in Europe with discontented EU leaders challenging the PM over the union's budget. No such worry, though. Arriving at the summit, Cameron showed he meant business as he strode in with an intimidating entourage, set to lower the EU budget for the first time in history. This he did, with the help of British allies, the Dutch and the Danes who successfully persuaded members to agree a cut in the union's budget. Payments were £800 billion for the previous seven-year round, however, the new agreement of £770 billion marks the first time the EU’s multi-year budget has fallen. Asked when leaving the summit, "Are you happy Prime Minister?", Cameron's answer was clear. "Yup", he replied, as he headed back to Britain to face the horse meat scandal.
Although back home there have been whispers of a challenge to his leadership since The Sunday Times broke the story of a supposed plot by Adam Afriyie, it appears Cameron isn't worried. His Europe speech has gone down well and he has now made history in securing a budget cut in the EU. Both could have been disastrous for the PM, yet he remains standing. Whether the Tories stand a chance of stealing a majority at the next general election in 2015 is still highly debateable. Labour need to come up with a clear policy in order to successfully challenge the Conservatives, as many people are still confused as to what the party stand for. Potentially, either could emerge as PM in 2015, though it seems Cameron won’t be going down without a fight.
By Emily Stacey