Special to WorldTribune.com
UK Prime Minister David Cameron won a sweeping electoral victory for his Conservative Party this May but already three to four senior Tory politicians are seen as possibly maneuvering behind the scenes to replace him as Britain’s leading politician.
Dr. Liam Fox, former UK defense chief, a member of Parliament and a possible candidate for the job of prime minister shared this assessment at a recent cyber conference in Lugano, Switzerland.
Fox described the electoral victory as a major surprise for the Conservative Party given pre-election polling that indicated the results might force another coalition government. Cameron’s victory ensured that he could serve as prime minister for another five years while the Tories could dominate British politics for the same period.
In Parliament, The Conservative Party’s dominance is reflected in victories such as those by Fox (representing roughly the equivalent of a congressional district) by more than forty percent over his nearest competitor. Under those circumstances most pundits expected there to be a period of relative stability within the British political scene.
Cameron had other things on his mind however. He announced shortly after his electoral victory that he would not serve out a full five-year term as prime minister but refused to place a date on his planned departure from his post. It almost certainly will not happen before a promised national referendum on whether the UK should remain part of the European Union (EU).
Cameron promised that vote before the end of 2017 but Fox said he expects the vote to be held as much as a year earlier in late 2016.
The vote will be a major test of Cameron s leadership. He has expressed general support for UK inclusion in the EU going forward, provided he can negotiate with the EU changes in EU regulations that would allow the UK greater future say in such areas as the enforcement of various regulations promulgated by the EU.
When asked who might move to succeed Cameron, Fox discussed the pros and cons of likely candidates.
Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, is the UK s second most powerful politician and has been at Cameron’s side for years. Fox believes Osborne is not overly popular among voters because of his austere economic policies. He also is said to lack Cameron’s political skills.
U.S. commentators have noticed he also shares an anti-American mindset that matches that of his father-in-law, former Transport Minister David Howell.
Osborne’s considerable advantage is that he likely will be Cameron’s choice as next prime minister although party leaders will not be obligated to follow Cameron’s lead.
Home Secretary Theresa May, regarded by Fox and many observers as highly competent in the demanding job of providing for Britain’s security requirements, is another possible candidate.
Fox admires her tough-minded approach to the complexities of fighting terrorism in the UK, beginning with the sensitivities of dealing with Britain large Muslim population that in many cases has not been well assimilated into British society. Her political skills are not well proven, a notable disadvantage in the sharp elbowed British political scene.
London Mayor Boris Johnson, widely regarded as a maverick in British politics and author of a recent book on Winston Churchill, has made little secret of his interest in rising to the pinnacle of political power.
Fox did not reveal his own political plans. Nonetheless, his impressive career suggest he would make a highly competent prime minister. A physician by training, Fox has been at the center of UK politics for 25 years, and views himself as an unbridled Thatcherite, an outgrowth of his work for former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Fox also was widely viewed as having served with considerable distinction as Secretary of State for Defense (the equivalent of the U.S. position of Secretary of Defense) from 2010-2011.
The author of “Rising Tides”, a broad look at global affairs, Fox is a long-time supporter of the United States and the NATO alliance, calling on European nations to invest more and rely less on U.S. defense spending for their defense. He has taken consistent positions in support of additional measures to confront terrorism in the Middle East and Russian expansionist policies.
The British political season may have concluded in May but a new season already appears to be emerging. Any of the above candidates could emerge victorious and much will depend on unfolding events. For example, a victory by the so-called Euro-skeptics on the EU referendum of which Fox is a leader would boost his chances significantly. Similarly, May stock would be boosted if the UK government were seen to be making strides in what Cameron claims will be a toughened approach to the problems of domestic terrorism.