Cameron rolls up his sleeves

Having won last week’s general election, the Tories have been quick to put some “clear blue water” between the coalition and their majority government, says Sebastian Payne on his Spectator blog. The new business secretary, Sajid Javid, has promised tougher strike laws and a new counter-extremism bill is to be introduced. With the Lib Dems no longer there to block bills, we’ll see “plenty more” such proposals in the weeks ahead.

During his first Cabinet meeting, David Cameron brandished a copy of the Conservative manifesto and declared that the government had a “mandate to deliver all of it”, says the BBC. He will want to act swiftly to carry out the most controversial elements, while his victory is fresh and his enemies “in disarray”, says Francis Elliott in The Times. Three such policies are: legislation for a referendum for Britain’s membership of the European Union; a change to parliamentary boundaries; and a “reduction in the voting power of MPs representing Scottish constituencies”.

The next few months will also “test the Tories’ appetite” for further welfare reform after Cameron pledged to cut the benefits bill by another £12bn. Many suspected that this proposal would be among the first casualties of a coalition negotiation. Cameron will also have to deliver spending cuts in areas outsidehealth, schools and aid, in order to clear the deficit by 2018. Then there’s funding for a “rash of spending commitments” made during the campaign – including 30 hours of free childcare, £8bn of NHS spending by the end of the parliament, and the new right-to-buy policy.

Cameron has to tread carefully, says Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times. “It’s hard to recall an election result whose mandate was so opaque.” Was it really a mandate for the Conservative manifesto, meaning a licence to “govern boldly”, or was the nation voting “grudgingly for continuity”, in which case Cameron must “curb his enthusiasm”? Even his advisers are unsure, but “Britain, or at least England, does not feel like a country asking to beturned upside down by zealots”.

Maybe not, but the electorate has sent Cameron a “clear message”, says Fraser Nelson in The Daily Telegraph. It wants to see what he can do without Ukip or the Lib Dems to hold him back. Until now, he has “specialised in the compromises of coalition”. Apart from whizzing through policies “thwarted” by the Lib Dems, this is also a chance to reshape his party and, in the process, conservatism. As victory approached, Cameron said that he wanted to “reclaim a mantle we should never have lost: the mantle of One Nation, one United Kingdom”.

That means securing the future of the Union, but it also means staking the Conservatives’ claim to be the “only true party of social justice, the greatest enemy of inequality, and the party best able to solve the problems that Labour decries. One nation conservatism, if done properly, could be David Cameron’s attempt to fight Labour on its own territory – as boldly and effectively as Blair raided the Tories’ turf 20 years ago.”