A couple of weeks ago this blog noted talk of a 25% strategy. "One leading supporter" of Mr Cameron was said to be hoping for a war on The 'Hate' Mail and The Mail on Sunday. The party would be fundamentally changed, the supporter hoped, and in the transition from the old to the new party Tory support might fall to 25% but it would be an interim price - well worth paying. One visitor to the site - 'AnotherNick' - dismissed the story as "just silly, possibly the work of another campaign, but more likely just an anti-Cameronite".
There's a lot of reasons to believe that 'AnotherNick' might be right. With the exception of ambiguity on drugs policy Mr Cameron has shown no inclinations to uber-modernisation. He has said that he wants to use the tax system to support marriage and he has rejected the idea of all-women shortlists. He has talked much more about poverty (at home and abroad) than lifestyle choice issues during the campaign - suggesting that he's more of an Easterhouse moderniser than a Soho moderniser.
In today's Sunday Telegraph Janet Daley hopes that the modernisers around Mr Cameron will make peace with the Conservative Party's past and abandon what she thinks is a futile search for a Clause IV moment. She hopes that they will reject 'Tory Modernisation Theology' and realise that there is "nothing in the Tory liturgy that was remotely as fatuous and electorally suicidal as Labour's promise to nationalise every wealth-producing mechanism in the land".
It would appear that Michael Portillo is still a disciple of Tory Modernisation Theology. Mr Portillo compares Mr Cameron's rise to that of Chauncey Gardiner in Hal Ashby's Being There film:
"In his film Being There, Peter Sellers played a simpleton, Chance, a gardener. He smiles sweetly and speaks softly. His only conversation is about seeds, plants, seasons and the like. By a series of accidents he is mistaken for a wise man who has chosen to speak only in metaphors. When he says that we reap in the autumn what we plant in the spring, sages nod their heads admiringly. Before long he has become a national hero, a familiar figure on television chat shows, a man whose counsel is sought by the president."
Mr Portillo hopes that Mr Cameron will stick with this Chauncey-like imprecision for the time-being. Mr Cameron's fundamental task, suggests the defeated 2001 leadership hopeful, is to change the Conservative party as fundamentally as Tony Blair changed the Labour party. Mr Portillo:
"If tax cuts, stable families and Euroscepticism do not fit the new Conservative project, whatever sentimental attachment Cameron may have to them, they also must be torn up..."
"The Tory benches are full of repellent figures whose faces, demeanour and speech turn voters from the party. They have to be dealt with. Cameron’s success will not be judged by whether he can lead a quiet life. It will be measured by the blood that he spills. If he is brutal enough, the silly questioning about his policies will go away."
David Davis is the safer bet in this leadership contest. We know what he believes. We know that he's an authentic conservative with a powerful personal biography. He would be a good leader for the party but his uninspirational campaign suggests that he would not be an exceptional leader. David Cameron could be an exceptional leader. He, not Mr Davis, appears to be the Heineken candidate with the ability to reach parts of Britain that have long been closed territory for our party. But he would be a disastrous leader if he ignites the internal feuding that would inevitably result from accepting Mr Portillo's extraordinarily bad counsel. I do not believe that Mr Cameron is a Portillista but it would be helpful if he soon distanced himself from Mr Portillo's Modernisation Ideology. Mr Portillo may be happy for Chauncey Gardiner vagueness. I, for one, would prefer a little more colour in Mr Cameron's Big Picture Conservatism.