Political heatwave: Is Cameron the Tories' Mr Cool?

Prime Minister David Cameron Image copyright PA
Image caption Prime Minister David Cameron has already spent more than three years at Downing Street

The heatwave isn't the only unexpected feature of this summer. Politically, David Cameron appears to have lowered the temperature among party critics who've questioned his leadership.

Conventional wisdom is that prime ministers more than half way through a parliament really start to feel the heat with backbench mutterings, poor poll ratings and a sense that the wheels are coming off the government wagon.

That's usually followed by calls for an immediate cabinet reshuffle to refresh the team.

Yet after more than three years in Downing Street, David Cameron looks like a prime minister at ease.

Even the last handful of opinion polls put the Conservatives and Labour almost neck and neck. The UKIP challenge, after the party's historic surge in May's county council elections, seems to have melted in the sun.

Cameron loyalist and Broxtowe MP Anna Soubry summed up the mood among fellow Conservatives.

"We're feeling good at the end of this parliamentary year because we've got a lot to feel good about," she told me.

"We're getting on top of the economy. And overall, unemployment is falling, which is very good news.

"Both sides try to send their troops away with a good message. I feel there's more for my side to have a good message about. "

The key also lies within the Conservative Party itself. The fractious debate over the EU, which has poisoned the party in the past, appeared to have rallied around David Cameron's referendum pledge.

Even that most pro-EU of cabinet ministers, Rushcliffe MP Ken Clarke, is being embraced on a heroic scale.

'I'll be back'

In Nottingham, the current Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne told local Tories that the Rushcliffe MP was "a national treasure".

"He's a sort of Arnold Schwarzenegger of British politics," said Mr Osborne, as he warmed to his theme.

"Like one of Arnie's sci-fi movies, Ken just appears across different generations and is politically impossible to put down.

"Every time Ken leaves, he says: 'I'll be back'. Ken's simply one of the greatest politicians ever."

Ken Clarke in the guise of an all-American hero got a rapturous response from rank-and-file Tories, most of them highly Euro-sceptic.

So if the Tories are feeling upbeat, maybe it's also a sign of confidence that Labour and Ed Miliband have much work to do with the voters.

Leicester South's Jon Ashworth is a close friend and ally of the Labour leader. He's also the newest member of the party's ruling National Executive Committee, which has turned the heat on past Labour leaders when the electoral going gets rough.

Economic doldrums

"Hardworking families in the East Midlands and in those battleground constituencies will be asking themselves: Are they better off now than they were three years ago? The answer to that is a big, fat no," he told me.

If the Conservatives are upbeat, he hints at complacency in Downing Street.

"The economy is in the doldrums and long-term unemployment is higher now than since the days of John Major.

"Unemployment nationally may be slightly down according to in the latest quarterly figures, but it has gone up in the East Midlands," he added.

"For such a vital manufacturing region, we need to find out why that's happening."

When MPs return to the Commons in early September and the autumn conference season gets under way, the heatwave may be a glorious memory.

But the political heat will start to intensify as the campaign countdown starts to next year's European elections and before you know it, the next general election in 2015.