”I think it really is barmy to be jetting off to do this in the middle of the local election campaign. There will be Conservatives all over the country knocking on doors, and where is he? He’s off looking at glaciers in Norway. I’m afraid he’s missing the target – it just has the feel of a gimmick…"
That was what "a senior member of Mr Cameron’s shadow cabinet" told last Monday’s Daily Telegraph about the Tory leader’s visit to a Norwegian glacier (for which Mr Cameron left London this afternoon).
In an interview with The Parliamentary Monitor Francis Maude described the "unattributable briefing" as "pathetic":
"It is obviously very unhelpful if anyone in a senior position in the party makes disobliging remarks to the media. That is a habit we thought we had grown out of and we need to grow out of it… They should just shut up, get on with the job or perhaps even better leave. If they don’t like what is being done then being a backbench Member of Parliament is a perfectly honourable thing to do."
Mr Maude, who recently acknowledged the electoral mountain that the Tories still had to climb, also used the interview to insist that David Cameron’s honeymoon was not over:
"Ok we are not far enough ahead in the polls to win an election but we have significantly improved from where we were flatlining for 14 years. So are we in better shape? Yes we emphatically are… I think David still attracts an extraordinary amount of attention, he’s still a very interesting figure for the media and the public and he does reflect and represent change. There’ll be much more from him."
Editor’s comment: "Francis Maude is absolutely right to insist that shadow cabinet ministers do not brief against the leader. "Unattributable briefings" from the Blair and Brown camps are damaging Labour in the way they once damaged the Conservative Party. We must not lose the discipline that was the key achievement of Michael Howard’s time as leader. Choosing to go public with his concerns was not necessarily such a wise move, however, by the Conservative Chairman unless he is trying to pre-empt further frontbench disloyalty."