A report in the Sunday Telegraph suggests that two – perhaps even six – Tory MPs have called for a vote of no confidence in David Cameron. The MPs have, it seems, written to Sir Michael Spicer, Chairman of the 1922 Committee, requesting the initiation of the procedures that ousted Iain Duncan Smith in 2003. An unnamed MP tells The Sunday Telegraph: "I felt I had to register my deep-seated dissatisfaction. I am not the only one and I know there are a number of others who are thinking of writing."
Are these MPs mad? Do they really believe that the Conservative Party needs another change of leader? Do they really want to replace the man who led the party to more than 900 gains in May’s local elections? Do they think Brown will delay the possible September/ October General Election until we’ve completed a leadership switch?
David Cameron was elected by nearly 70% of Tory members just 18 months ago. Talk of replacing him is crazy. He is the only show in town as one more sensible MP said yesterday. There are certainly problems with Tory strategy and tactics but David Cameron deserves the time to complete his programme of party renewal.
None of this is to suggest that all is well. It clearly isn’t. We’re up to 7% behind in the polls and talk of an autumn election needs to be taken very seriously. Over recent days, weeks and months ConservativeHome has recommended a number of ‘course corrections’ to Project Cameron. Here is a summary of some of the most important ones:
‘Let Cameron Be Cameron’: It will soon be too late to correct the increasingly popular idea that David Cameron is nothing but a PR man. The things that are true and real about David Cameron must come to the fore. We have suggested his love of the family, his commitment to the NHS and his Euroscepticism. Brown is looking more like the antidote to the superficiality of Blair at the moment. That’s dangerous.
Rally the base: Ann Widdecombe tells today’s Mail on Sunday that David Cameron must spend more time presenting clear policies on law and order and immigration. Monmouth MP David Davies offers essentially the same message: "We must also ensure that people know we are the party that still believes in strong policies on crime, immigration and the creeping takeover of Britain by Brussels." Cameron should task his three leading right-wingers with this job. David Davis, most importantly of all, must spend the summer campaigning against Labour’s failures on crime, immigration and homeland security. He shouldn’t be off the nation’s TV screens. William Hague must focus on Brown’s broken promise to give the British people a referendum. Liam Fox must be given budgetary freedom by George Osborne to plot a path to an end to the overstretch in our armed forces. At the same time there must be no retreat from the greener, gentler conservatism that David Cameron has advocated. We’re proud that Iain Duncan Smith’s passion for social justice has put the Tories at the heart of the debate about mending Britain’s broken society. We’re proud that Tories are currently in Rwanda – making a practical difference to that damaged corner of Africa (Iain Dale, David Mundell and Vicky Ford are blogging from there). We’re optimistic that Peter Lilley’s report on globalisation and poverty will provide the policies to substantiate the Tories’ commitment to social justice.
Improve the press operation. This still isn’t working properly. I noted on Friday my horror that CCHQ is not in regular and personal contact with the nation’s leading political journalists. Team Brown is outflanking us in the service they are providing to the media.
Accelerate candidate selection. As we report on Seats & Candidates today, selections are being postponed – allegedly because not enough women are applying. This is unacceptable. The Burrowes/ Shapps analysis – ‘Pick Em Early, Pick Em Local’ – needs to be taken to heart – especially given the increased likelihood of an early poll.
Explain, explain, explain. Team Cameron has been too closed. Too many MPs don’t feel that they understand the leadership’s mission. Too many frontbenchers aren’t included in policy annoucements that affect their briefs. There’ll be a lot less panic in the Tory ranks if more people feel part of the plan.
That’s enough advice from us for now! We’d be grateful for your constructive suggestions.