David Davis warns remoteness from working class Britain could be as toxic for Cameron as sleaze was for Major
By Tim Montgomerie
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It was only two weeks that David Cameron and George Osborne were basking in the sunlight of Barack Obama's rose garden. Today they are living through the worst period of their time in government and they've just been warned by David Davis that they are at risk of becoming defined by remoteness from lower and middle class voters.
Speaking on Radio 4's World at One, the former Shadow Home Secretary, who has regularly criticised the strategy and tactics of the man who defeated him in the race for the Tory leadership, said that the Conservative Party cannot win an election if it does not appeal to a significant minority of working class and lower middle class voters.
Margaret Thatcher, he said, appealed to the ambitions of the working class and their sense of values. The challenge of doing the same in an age of austerity is much greater, Davis conceded, but must be attempted. A lot of the working class, he said, think "they've been pushed off the escalator" and "start to resent those they still think are on the escalator or at the top of it". This feeling, he continued, "works worst against Tory politicians" because "they think we're better off... we're toffs." Mr Davis said:
"The truth of the matter is they look at the frontbench and they see them all well-dressed, well turned out, well fed and perhaps feel they're in a different world to them...
That's why that we're all in this together phrase is very important but at the moment isn't working".
"Governments always have to watch they don't get stuck with an impression that plays against them. In John Major's day it was sleaze. If this sticks it makes almost everything you want to achieve impossible. If I was in Downing Street I'd be worried about this. It's not insuperable yet but it's a problem they have to get a grip of."
David Davis said that David Cameron "does have a strong sense of social justice" but he needs to show it in deep, substantial and unspun ways - not through photo opportunities set up by 25 year-old advisers.
> ConservativeHome has been anxious about this topic for some time. Last October we launched Majority Conservatism on the back of the idea we needed to be a party of the "little guy". Recently we promoted a series of initiatives to reach out to Britain's strivers - including shock-and-awe tax cuts for the low-paid, the promotion of northern candidates at the next election and Matthew Barrett's media Grit List of MPs.