David Davis has put a new edge on his rhetotic today - implying that David Cameron will "slavishly follow" a Blair-style "image-led strategy". In Mr Davis' speech to this morning's Leicester hustings, he said:
“I give you this pledge. I will not ride to Tony Blair’s rescue. I will do all I can to hasten his end. So the choice you make in the coming days is crucial to the fate of this party and the fate of the country. Either we can slavishly follow Tony Blair and go for an image-led strategy, cautious on policy, or you can go for battle hardened experience – sure in the knowledge that our principles are enduring principles, fit to take this party and this country to a better future.”
That is certainly the strategy he followed last week in defeating Mr Blair's terror reforms. Radio 4's World At One suggested that Mr Davis had "won" the Leicester meeting. The question of how to react to an increasingly weak Tony Blair is one of the biggest that will face the incoming leader. Should the Conservatives help him secure his (albeit half-hearted) education and other reforms as better than the status quo? Should we side with the Labour left and defeat those reforms - so speeding Mr Blair's end and the arrival of a Tory government (or a Brown leadership)? Today's Telegraph is inclined to support Mr Cameron's style of opposition:
"David Davis is a naturally combative man, who sees his main role as being to biff Labour. There is no dishonour here: the chief function of an opposition, as Disraeli observed, is to oppose; and heaven knows there is plenty to oppose in this ministry. Then again, Disraeli lost five out of six general elections. Voters do not warm to a party that seems to be playing politics instead of looking to the national interest. David Cameron plainly takes the view that voting with the far Left - whether over tuition fees, foundation hospitals or Iraq - makes his party look meretricious. To paid-up members of the forces of conservatism, it is frustrating that the main conflict should be between Mr Blair's milk-and-water reforms and the immobilism of his own party. But offering qualified support to Mr Blair's liberalising proposals, flawed and tentative as they might be, is the best way to convince the country of the Tories' seriousness and so, paradoxically, to hasten his departure."