Honest, arrogant or foolhardy? Cameron rules out third term
British Prime Minister David Cameron`s announcement that he would not seek a third term sparked heated debate on Tuesday over whether he was being laudably honest or had undermined his authority just weeks before an election.
London: British Prime Minister David Cameron`s announcement that he would not seek a third term sparked heated debate on Tuesday over whether he was being laudably honest or had undermined his authority just weeks before an election.
He even went so far as to name three potential successors from within his Conservative party, risking the prospect of a leadership race that could distract from the campaign.
"There definitely comes a time when a fresh pair of eyes or fresh leadership would be good," Cameron told the BBC late Monday. "The third term is not something I`m contemplating."
His seemingly off-the-cuff remarks in an interview in the kitchen of his constituency home in Oxfordshire, west of London, were a surprise, particularly as he is by no means assured of winning a second term in the May 7 vote.
The opposition Labour party, who are neck-and-neck with the Tories in the opinion polls, accused him of arrogance.
"It is typically arrogant of David Cameron to presume a third Tory term in 2020 before the British public have been given the chance to have their say in this election," said Labour campaign chief Douglas Alexander.
The Liberal Democrats, the junior partners in Cameron`s Conservative-led coalition, said the premier was being "incredibly presumptuous".
Senior Conservative lawmaker Michael Gove confirmed that Cameron would not stand at the election in 2020, but said he was just being honest.
"As far as I was concerned, it was a statement of the bleeding obvious. I wasn`t surprised by the prime minister saying it," Gove told the BBC`s Newsnight programme.
He said the remarks could benefit the party on polling day by proving Cameron was a "normal, sane, decent guy".
"He is not in it for glory, ego or wealth; he is in it because he believes that has another five years to give and he has seen other leaders -- including Tony Blair sadly -- cling into office too long," Gove said.Commentators warned that Cameron risked undermining his authority, with The Times newspaper running the headline: "Cameron fires starting gun on Tory leadership race."
One writer in the mass-circulation Daily Mail tabloid suggested that if he wins re-election in May he could become a "lame-duck prime minister"
"For the awkward squad on the Tory backbenches, the penalties for rebellion will seem trivial and short-lived, since a new leader will be along in a year or two," he said.
"And for the prime minister`s ambitious colleagues, the leadership campaign will begin on the day he walks back into Number 10 (Downing Street)."
Comparisons are being drawn with former Labour prime minister Blair, whose announcement in 2004 that he would not stand for a fourth election was viewed as a major mistake.
Blair`s finance minister and political rival, Gordon Brown, took the concession as the starting gun to step up his efforts to push the premier out of office.
Blair quit in 2007 after ten years as prime minister, two years after winning a historic third election and three years before he would have had to stand again.
Britain`s longest serving premier of the 20th century, Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher, said she would "go on and on and on", but was ousted by her party after 11 years.
Cameron named Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Theresa May and finance minister George Osborne as potential successors.
All of them have been tipped for the top job, but the prime minister`s remarks put their ambitions in a different light.
Johnson said the furore over Cameron`s remarks was "a fuss about nothing", adding: "Five years is a very long time, and I`m sure he`ll do a fantastic job in that period."
He added: "The next leader of the Tory party is probably a babe unborn."