David Cameron launches his National Citizen Service idea today. I think it’s a great idea but this morning’s BBC News bulletins were giving at least as much attention to Mr Cameron’s putdown of Michael Ancram. This is what the Conservative leader told The Sun (my emphasis):
“I want all Conservatives to think carefully before they open their mouths… When you make changes you’ll get blasts from the past who signify nothing. Political leadership is about taking a long-term approach. It’s about ignoring noises off stage. I don’t think when Tony Blair was trying to change the Labour Party he spent his whole time worrying about what Tony Benn was saying. I set a clear course that has already reaped huge benefits. Look at our local election results."
‘Blasts from the past who signify nothing’? Mr Ancram’s intervention was ill-timed – as ConservativeHome argued on Tuesday morning – but Mr Cameron really must stop trashing his critics. His frustration is understandable but his behaviour is not statesmanlike. It’s a reminder of the time when he attacked critics of his grammar schools policy as "delusional" or when he criticised Ali Miraj and Stanley Kalms in a Today programme interview. Mr Cameron should allow others to deal with his critics. He must be a unifying figure and he’s only given a 11th hour burst of life to the nearly dead Ancram story.
Cameron’s office still needs to do much more to build better links with the parliamentary and wider party. This is what Anne McElvoy wrote in yesterday’s Evening Standard: "I have been struck in the past two months by the fact that many Tories who defended the new leader in effusive, not to say excessive, terms last year, have become sour and negative now. Too many of them feel neglected by him and his team… There are frequent complaints from people who thought they had an ‘in’ with him being treated coolly or even haughtily by his office, or letters written by people who have been kind to him, returned unsigned or ignored." I hear many, many similar stories.