The Observer reports that an unnamed industrialist has cancelled a £250,000 pledge to the Tory party over concern at "downgrading of the party’s commitment to reduce taxes and the abandonment of long-held Tory positions, including support of business." It also notes that Robin Harris, former Thatcher speechwriter, will use an article for Prospect magazine to tell Mr Cameron that he "should be having sleepless nights about what he is doing to bedrock Conservative support in the country."
Amid signs of this right-wing discontent the Tory leadership has attempted to shore up core support with renewal of its commitment to a "rapid" free vote on reversing the Hunting Act. One "Tory insider" told The Sunday Telegraph:
"The bottom line for traditionalists is hunting and Europe. So long as Cameron stays sound on those two issues, Right-wingers will follow him anywhere and swallow pretty much every other U-turn he makes."
I don’t believe that the Tory insider quite understands the modern Conservative Party but there is little doubt that the hunting lobby is a powerful member of the Tory coalition. The Telegraph article notes that it can marshall 8,000 volunteer campaigners to help the activist-poor Tory party get out its leaflets. Hunting enthusiasts were certainly actively involved in the successful Tory campaigns in Enfield Southgate, Guildford and Newbury at the last election.
What the pledge does show, however, is that David Cameron is determined not to pursue outright confrontation with the right of the ‘blood-on-the-carpet’ variety recommended by Michael Portillo. This pledge, coming on top of his (albeit difficult) dinner with the No Turning Back group, indicates Mr Cameron’s first serious attempts to reassure the increasingly anxious right.