Fraser Nelson uses an article in this week’s Spectator to suggest that David Cameron’s honeymoon is over. He doesn’t think that there is a crisis but he argues that the Tories have progressed less than supporters might have hoped. Internal dissent is one of the four things he identifies as having ended the Cameron honeymoon. He does note, however, that "the internal opposition to Cameron is deferential rather than regicidal." "The aim," he continues, "is not to thwart [Cameron] but to change his mind".
The four honeymoon spoilers…
Modest opinion poll progress: "On Tuesday Lord Ashcroft, party donor and now deputy chairman, invited Conservatives to a meeting in Portcullis House to hear some bad news. In the opinion polls there is little evidence of the Cameron phenomenon spreading much beyond Westminster. There were encouraging signs of progress — target women voters are becoming keener — but the public remains to be convinced that the party is different from the one they rejected last year… YouGov, whose damnably accurate polling has taken the fun out of election night, had Labour and Conservatives at level pegging in December. It now gives Labour a two-point lead and, ominously, gives Brown a six-point lead over Cameron. Ashcroft’s private polling for the party is a little better, putting the parties neck and neck, but also shows no discernible progress."
Donor disquiet: "The whispers of disgruntled Conservatives have now become audible once more. First come the major donors, on whom the party is uniquely dependent. Stuart Wheeler has praised Cameron in public — but in private is becoming increasingly less guarded in his despair at policy reversals on grammar schools and health reform… I understand that two other major donors share his concern but have agreed to stay quiet for a year to see if Cameron delivers."
Poor campaign infrastructure: "The news from the front is so far grim. There is growing alarm that the party’s campaigning machine has grown inferior to the Liberal Democrats’ — as was witnessed during the disastrous Dunfermline by-election a week ago. Officials parachuted in a candidate who could have been designed by a committee of Tory modernisers: a single mother and professional nutritionist."
Right-wing anxiety: "Meanwhile Cameron is hearing the dissent for himself. His dinner on Monday with the No Turning Back group of Thatcherite MPs (whose membership overlaps strikingly with that of the David Davis campaign team) was far from a jovial affair, according to the accounts of two present. The group offered their personal support, but they made clear their dismay at his decision to relegate tax cuts from the political agenda, seeing it as a momentous act of appeasement to New Labour… Next comes the Cornerstone Group of socially conservative, Eurosceptic MPs who dine monthly under the chairmanship of Edward Leigh. Rather than brief against Cameron, they have decided to publish a series of pamphlets laying out areas where they disagree. They will soon announce their first: a rival agenda for police reform. Next month a paper on education will make the case for the voucher system in schools which Cameron has rejected."