I rather enjoyed this pro-Cameron article in this week's Spectator by Vernon Bogdanor. It contains some choice quotable passages, such as:
[The Conservative party] seem to be engaged in a permanent quarrel with the British people. In that quarrel there can be only one victor, and it will not be the Conservative party.
More worryingly for the party is this analysis of its fortunes, which is more depressing than even I had thought:
They have lost support both among graduates and among the young. Such support as they have gained since 1997 has come mainly from the over-65s and from the geographically and socially immobile. Significantly, the three seats which the Conservatives gained in 2001 — Castle Point, Romford and Upminster — contained a lower than average percentage of graduates and members of ethnic minorities, and a higher than average percentage of older votes. In 2001 there were actually swings away from the Tories from their already low 1997 level among the professional and managerial classes, 25–34-year-olds and the ethnic minorities. The 2005 election, although it led to a few more Tory gains, did little to reverse these trends; and among university students the Conservatives are now the third party, behind even the Liberal Democrats. The party has actually lost ground since 1997 in constituencies where the proportion of university graduates is above average. It is a myth, therefore, to believe that the Conservatives can regain power simply by mobilising their existing voting base. The current Tory voting profile is that of an unelectable party. ... No doubt many voters might, in the saloon bar, sound off on Europe or asylum-seekers, but they have enough sense to regard any political leader who mistakes saloon-bar musings for policy as weird and out of touch. The core vote strategy, therefore, can do little more than energise an increasingly ageing and unrepresentative group of old faithfuls. It cannot serve as a springboard for revival.
Over at Once More, where you can get some excellent inside views from the young (well, I somehow imagine they're quite young - they're blogging, after all) Tory faithful. There, the news for Cameron is not nearly so favourable. Andrew (who also writes with me at the Sharpener) finds Cameron to be 'Blair redux' and everything the Tories should not be looking for: Eton, Oxford and no real clue what firm policies he will introduce. Andrew sums up:
Do we want to spend the next few months basking in sunshine of positive media while Cameron is given all the space he needs to start creating that compelling narrative that the journo's ache to report, only to find ourselves a few years into government being led by a man whose only principle seems to be the Blairite 'whatever works', even when 'whatever works' is anything but what gets implemented? Or do we want to tough it out for a few years under Davis, working hard to sell our message into areas we simply haven't been able or willing to in the last decade or two, but then finding ourselves in government with a real agenda, a mandate, and a commitment to see it through?
Well, the Blairite 'whatever works', however mealy mouthed, got Labour into power and seems set to keep it there for some time. As for Davis, I still feel the three letters I, D and S reverberating through my brain whenever I hear him or of him.
Clarke is probably a busted flush; Fox would be, I'm quite convinced, such a disaster for the Tories that it would make them want John Major back. That leaves the two Davids. Either could work. Either could be dreadful. But, if I were Labour, Cameron would be the one I would fear the more. If I were Cameron, though, I would probably not want to be elected quite yet. Leave it another five years. The risks of a bad defeat in four years' time, whoever is the leader, are just too great.