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      Despite Successful London Olympics, Cameron's Problems Increase

      The Liberal Democrats are playing tit for tat with no support for redrawing parliamentary districts. Olympic successes are of no help.
      By Amiel Ungar
      First Publish: 8/8/2012, 4:01 AM

      Boris Johnson and Cameron
      Boris Johnson and Cameron
      Reuters

      Pity British Prime Minister David Cameron. He could have been expected to receive a bump in approval ratings as a result of the London Olympics and Team Britain's highly credible performance.

      To his chagrin, the major political beneficiary of the Olympics has been London's mayor Boris Johnson, simply known as Boris. Boris has made no secret of the fact that he aspires to David Cameron's job and according to recent polls, Conservative voters definitely view him as a Prime Minister-in-waiting.

      The gap between the Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party has widened - to the detriment of the Conservatives - although it is hard to say that the leader of the opposition, David Miliband and his shadow cabinet, have actually set the world on fire.

      The Conservative rank-and-file are increasingly dispirited about the coalition with the Liberal Democrats and the fissures are growing wider. Conservative voters indicate a clear preference for aligning with the Eurosceptic United Kingdom Independence party and ditching the Liberals in the next election. At the same time, leading Liberal party leaders such as Vince Cable have emphasized the need for their party to regain a separate identity from the Conservatives well before the next election.

      The area where the coalition's problems are most obvious is political reform. David Cameron was highly embarrassed by the intraparty revolt against him when, faithful to the coalition agreement, he tried to push forward the Liberal Democratic Party pledge to reform the House of Lords. When the reality that Cameron would not be able to subdue the revolt set in, he withdrew the proposal from the House of Commons.

      Now Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat party leader Nick Clegg has announced that his party will exact revenge for what it considers the Conservatives reneging on the coalition agreement. The Liberal Democrats will withhold their support from the Conservative bill to cut down the number of MPs in the House of Commons to 600 members and redraw the boundaries of the parliamentary districts to make them more equal in population size. This will deprive cities that have sustained population declines, such as Liverpool and boost the power of the suburbs. Normally this would help the Conservatives and penalize Labour. The proposal is also politically appealing in cutting the costs of government while promoting greater equality.

      The Prime Minister has announced that he will push ahead with the bill despite the Liberal Democrats' opposition, because this can reestablish his credibility with the Conservative base as he is taking on the Liberal Democrats while at the same time backing a proposal that should command popular approval.