2011: The Conservatives' year

By Gary O'Donoghue
Political correspondent, BBC News

media captionConservative highlights of 2011

David Cameron is likely to end the year a reasonably happy man.

Not only did he wow his own party - and seemingly large parts of the electorate - with his veto at the EU summit, but he's also widely thought to have laid a significant glove on Ed Miliband in this year's final Prime Minister's Question time.

He has even found himself ahead in some polls - something he could not have expected.

But the year didn't start so well.

The prime minister saw his director of communications, former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, depart, after it became clear the phone-hacking scandal would not go away.

AV rejection

Eurosceptics also organised their first rebellion against the government and the chancellor found himself blaming the snow for a contraction in the economy.

Mr Cameron was also forced to announce his "pause" on NHS changes after growing friction with the Lib Dems - and there were other, more stark, U-turns on issues such as selling off forests and sentencing policy.

But the public's rejection of the alternative vote in a referendum was a real lift to the Conservative Party, even though it created huge bitterness among their coalition partners, who felt the prime minister had reneged on a deal not to attack his Lib Dem deputy Nick Clegg in person.

There were also good results for the Conservatives in the English local elections, though seats were lost in Scotland.

David Cameron's decision to take a leading role in the Libyan campaign dominated foreign policy for months.

There were hiccups, such as the special forces team picked up in Benghazi when the UK was not meant to have troops on the ground.

But come August, David Cameron and his then friend Nicolas Sarkozy took the plaudits of the Libyan people.

Cabinet casualty

The autumn saw increasingly gloomy news on the economy and yet more unhappiness on the Tory backbenches over Europe - with a new group formed to put pressure on the prime minister.

image captionHappier times: Mr Sarkozy and Mr Cameron celebrate the fall of Colonel Gaddafi's regime

Eighty one Tory backbenchers voted against the government on Europe - a huge shot across the prime ministerial bows.

At the same time, there was the first cabinet casualty of the year.

Liam Fox's friendship with an unpaid adviser, Adam Werritty, dominated headlines for more than two weeks, with the prime minister eventually losing the battle to keep his defence secretary in place.

But that was soon forgotten with the all-encompassing crisis in the eurozone.

That continues to cast a huge shadow over the British economy - with rising unemployment, growth downgraded and confidence at rock-bottom.

The difficulty for the government is that as 2012 approaches, further instability in the eurozone could see things in the UK get much worse.

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