Michael Portillo’s columns in The Sunday Times. What is to be said about them? This ‘wisdom’ appears in today’s column:
"By and large, Cameron’s policy of daily saying the opposite of what
you expect a Conservative to say is working well and the opinion polls
reflect his success."
It is, of course, possible to see where Mr Portillo is coming from but his reading of Project Cameron is somewhat superficial. On a range of issues – including the Human Rights Act, prisons policy, strengthening the family, police reform, free trade and secure borders – Mr Cameron is ploughing a traditionalist furrow.
Doing the opposite of what Mr Portillo recommends is actually a pretty good rule of thumb for any sensible Tory strategist. Mr Cameron has already (wisely) spurned Mr Portillo’s blood-on-the-carpet advice, his suggestion that Trident not be replaced and his recommendation that the party would be better off without "throwbacks" like John Redwood, IDS and Ken Clarke. Mr Cameron also appears determined to reject today’s recommendation – from the man who, in this arch sceptical days, told party conference that ‘Europe isn’t working’ – that the Tory leader abandon his commitment to take Britain out of the EPP. Mr Cameron’s "foolish" commitment to leave the EPP "calls to mind Cameron’s description of the UK Independence party as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”."
Within Michael Portillo’s writing there is often a very personal, even bitter edge. That’s on display again in the way he concludes today’s piece. I don’t think Michael Portillo has ever forgiven William Hague for winning the Tory leadership after the 1997 election – a leadership which Mr Portillo expected to inherit and probably would have done so if the voters of Enfield Southgate had not been so neglected by him. Appearing not to understand that it is William Hague who is most
cautious about the EPP pledge, Mr Portillo urges Mr Cameron to break his EPP pledge and
so "shatter Hague’s credibility and force him to resign". Mr Portillo describes the Shadow Foreign
Secretary as "a Eurosceptic without the mitigation of also being a
moderniser". Mr Portillo is a rejected politician without the mitigation of possessing any humility.