Where’s the beef?

by Stephen Tall on May 14, 2006

Patience Wheatcroft, the new editor of The Sunday Telegraph, has today fired a warning shot across David Cameron’s bows:

while the polls show just how much David Cameron and his team have benefited from Mr Blair’s discomfiture, they may not be able to spend too long gloating. For very soon, much sooner than they had hoped, they look likely to have to stop concentrating on image and start revealing a few policies.

And that, notes Ms Wheatcroft, is when the problems might just kick in again:

It is easy to see why the Conservative leader is loath to commit the party to particular policies for, in so many areas, he runs the risk of dividing his potential electorate. With Afghani hijackers continuing to enjoy our hospitality and proven killers let loose to kill again rather than be deported, being prepared to ditch the Human Rights Act seems eminently sensible. But the mere suggestion that the Tories might contemplate such a move brings shrieks that they are indeed “the nasty party”. …

Looking like a modern Conservative is relatively easy: smile, wear fashionable trainers and try to ensure that the chauffeur keeps out of camera range. Devising the policies to go with the look is very much harder.

This will, of course, be the only true test of whether Mr Cameron has got what it takes. So far, he has enjoyed a remarkably easy ride, both from the press – bored in equal measure by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown; and from his own party – who are now just about hungry enough for power, at least enough to realise they must pretend to like modern Britain.

But, some time, a crunch will come, when Mr Cameron will have to face down the reactionary majority in his party to prove to the public that their image transformation is more than just cosmetic.

Will he have the grit and determination necessary? And, if so, will his party swallow its emasculation?

If he doesn’t, Mr Cameron is surely smart enough to know he will follow his three predecessors into the scrap-yard marked ‘Failed Tory leaders’?