WHY DOES CAMERON DESPISE THE TORIES? A Devastating Critique of the Party He Loves by One of the Architects of the Conservatism That Transformed Britain in the Eighties and Nineties

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AS head of the Tory Research Department and a member of the No 10 policy unit under Margaret Thatcher, Robin Harris was one of the most influential Conservatives of his age, whose policies helped transform Britain from an economic basket case into Europe's most dynamic economy. Here, in a devastating personal critique, he accuses David Cameron - who, ironically, he talent spotted - of betraying everything the party should stand for...

THE great Tory grammar school fiasco has served a purpose. It was not intended as a Conservative Clause Four moment - the equivalent of Tony Blair's famous break with old Labour when he scrapped his party's commitment to nationalisation.

But it has been a moment of illumination for large numbers of Conservative supporters who, despite the evidence, had still believed their party was led by a Tory.

This week, it resulted in David Cameron's first frontbench resignation when Graham Brady, his stubbornly principled Europe spokesman, made clear he intended to defy the party line and fight for grammar schools from the backbenches.

No one had heard of Mr Brady, but now his many supporters in the constituencies will not forget him quickly.

Today's Conservative Party is in a strange mood, quite unlike the moods with which we coped in the Eighties.

I was then director of the party's research department, before moving to the No 10 policy unit, where I planned the manifesto for Mrs Thatcher's intended fourth term - before, finally, and without too many regrets, going down with the ship.

The last crisis was merely the worst of many. During the Thatcher years, there were plenty of rows, far more, indeed, than in today's emasculated politics. Yet there was a strong sense of mission, and it was good to be a Tory.

EVERYONE knew the party had clear goals, a strong leader and a stirring vision for the future. Even those who disliked the goals, loathed the leader and did not wish to be stirred were impressed.

This, in turn, imparted a momentum, a sense of inevitability, before which opposing phalanxes crumbled. It was an exhilarating experience.

The feeling today is very different. People who say that the Conservative Party is once again in rude health mistake the symptoms.

An opinion poll lead is certainly much better than the opposite.

David Cameron has wooed the BBC and the Guardian with aplomb. We can all safely be nasty about Gordon Brown. But

this is thin, unappetising gruel, if one has tasted something better.

In the Eighties, the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher was obsessive about changing Britain. Today, the Conservative Party is merely obsessive about changing itself.

The introspection of parties, like that of individuals, is essentially unhealthy, particularly when it is accompanied by a gnawing preoccupation with what your detractors think.

The syndrome may somewhere have a longer name. But Mrs Thatcher had her own short word for it: 'frit'.

Fear is what lies behind the grammar school imbroglio.

The Party leadership is afraid to tell the truth that the concomitant of liberty is always inequality. If some are to succeed, others must fail.

The failure need not be permanent or absolute, and the overall effect of free competition is to force up standards, from which everyone ultimately benefits. Most people know this.

But spelling it out takes moral courage, which the present leadership lacks.

Mr Cameron's wider strategy involves publicly distancing himself from the party members who elected him. Many senior politicians privately despise those who work and vote for them. But it is generally a bad idea to show it.

The Duke of Wellington thought his men were 'the scum of the earth'. But he was not foolish enough to tell them that before a battle.

Mr Cameron's reaction to criticism of his education policy has been arrogant and insulting. …