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David Davis launches "bombshell" critique of Cameron's understanding of 'real people'

Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2011-01-23 at 19.17.37The idea that the Tory leadership (and Nick Clegg) doesn't understand how "ordinary people" live is a real vulnerability of the Coalition. The Christmas cover of the New Statesman (above) attempted to exploit this vulnerability. David Davis has just spoken to FiveLive and has reinforced that vulnerability in what John Pienaar described, quite fairly, as a "bombshell" interview.

DAVIS DAVID I didn't get the former Shadow Home Secretary's words down verbatim but this is a pretty close recap of what he said:

  • A common criticism of the Cameron leadership is that they don't have a sense of what poorer people in Britain feel. Andy Coulson - an Essex boy, a council house lad, who made his own way in the world and didn't mince words - brought a tough and necessary perspective into the small team around David Cameron.
  • There's no doubt in my mind that Andy Coulson's departure will be a real loss.
  • Coulson didn't win every argument but he succeeeded in adding immigration to Cameron's speeches. He won the argument in favour of cutting inheritance tax.
  • It's a problem of antennae rather than intellect... Andy helped address that. He argued very toughly on crime because he knows that that matters on council estates. It doesn't matter so much, frankly, when you live on a leafy drive.
  • David and George care about the issues but they are who they are, they don't come from backgrounds where people have to scrape together money at the end of the week. In the inner circles where decisions are made there won't be anyone anymore who brings what Coulson brought.
  • The toughest minded one in the inner circle is George Osborne. He argued for lower taxes on lower income households even though he was the richest one. Coulson backed George and gave him a second dimension.
  • We are the most stratfied society in the western world. Cameron and Clegg say they want to change this but it's tough for them to do so when they can only do so intellectually.

David Davis may be right - although some of Cameron's other advisers are being caricatured - but this provides plentiful ammunition to the many people who instinctively see the Conservative Party as the party of the rich.

Over at Coffee House James Forsyth sizes up the runners and riders to replace Andy Coulson. My guess is that David Davis has just increased the likelihood that someone like former Telegraph Editor Will Lewis will get the job rather than, say, ITN's Tom Brady. Lewis is comprehensive school educated and went to Bristol University. Bradby, in contrast, may bring the skills of a TV broadcaster but comes from the same social set as David Cameron.

Esther McVey is on with John Pienaar now. Expect the Coalition to make more and more use of such voices as hers.

2pm, 24/1: Full audio of David Davis telling Radio Five Live that Cameron's inner circle lacks a common touch

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