Key quotes from this morning's Times leader:
"Clearly David Cameron is not making a convincing case. The central charge against him is that, while he is approachable and likeable, his aims and values as a future prime minister of this country are still unclear. David Cameron has yet to answer a basic question: what does he stand for?
…Mr Cameron’s case is not yet persuasive. His speeches are replete with favourable references to charities but precious little about the practical business issue of job creation. He has been fond lately of set-piece speeches of dubious intellectual and strategic wisdom on the iniquity of the big state and health and safety legislation. He would be better advised to get out into the country to visit as many people and places as possible, splitting his time between persuading and listening. Mr Cameron is, instead, projecting the aura of a man who wants power rather more than he knows what to do with it.
…David Cameron has not yet done enough to dispel the suspicion that his programme of modernisation is a pose designed to secure office.
…It is all very well to complain about the Labour record but we still await a clear, unambiguous and compelling case for a Conservative government."
I'm still of the strong view that current opinion polls should not alarm us but the Tory leadership needs to wake up to the arguments presented by The Times. Cameron is at his best when the odds are against him…
- This was true when David Davis was the hot favourite to become Tory leader and David Cameron gave that compelling speech to the Blackpool Party Conference…
- This was true in the autumn of 2007 when Brown was preparing to call a honeymoon election but David Cameron announced that transformational inheritance tax cut…
- This was true at the height of the expenses crisis when David Cameron captured the public mood and insisted on tough action against guilty MPs.
David Cameron is at his worst when he is well ahead in opinion surveys. He stops taking risks and nurses his advantage. It has been said that he treats his opinion poll lead as a Ming Vase that needs the most cautious stewardship.
We are not seeing the best of David Cameron at the moment. He is neglecting the base of the Conservative Party. He is not setting a clear direction on deficit reduction. We are hearing him deliver too many forgettable speeches. After a Christmas break – and he looks in need of a holiday – we need to see a change of gear.