I asked this question before and promised a readers’ vote to find an answer. I never delivered on that promise but, perhaps, six months into Project Cameron it is worth asking the question again and finally holding that vote?
The question came back to me because of Fraser Nelson’s interview with David Willetts in this week’s Spectator. This is how Fraser begins his article:
"Any attempt to trace the intellectual origins of today’s new Conservative party leads fairly quickly to the space between David Willetts’s ears. For the best part of two decades, he has been arguing for the need for a softer-focus social agenda which would resonate with voters who were convinced that hard-edged Thatcherism had nothing to offer them. In the early 1990s he called this ‘civic conservatism’ — yet it was lost in the messy decline of the Major years. Now, it is called Cameronism and is universally lauded. But rather than be fêted, Mr Willetts must watch like an inventor without a patent as his ideas are put to use by other people."
There will be plenty of people who would line up to dispute Fraser’s suggestion that David Willetts might have invented Cameronism. Oliver Letwin MP, if he wasn’t so modest, would be near the front of the queue. Unlike David Willetts, who backed David Davis for the Tory crown (a decision he explains to Fraser Nelson), Oliver Letwin was Mr Cameron’s first major sponsor. Since then Mr Letwin’s caution on tax and support for a Kyoto-based approach to the world’s environmental problems have hugely influenced David Cameron. Mr Letwin, as head of the policy review process, certainly has much more day-to-day influence on Mr Cameron than the Shadow Education Secretary.
Steve Hilton must also be a lead influence. His background in corporate responsibility has inspired Mr Cameron’s happiness agenda and his questioning of some aspects of big business.
There is nothing more important in terms of David Cameron’s long-term legacy than the candidates that become MPs during his leadership. Could Francis Maude, Bernard Jenkin and Theresa May – as guardians of the A-list – be seen as the biggest influences, therefore?
In January, when I last asked this question, a number of you (Frank Young, in particular) suggested that David Cameron’s own family was the biggest influence on his politics.
What do you all think now?