Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cameron Must Now Capture the Heart of His Party or Fail; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cameron Must Now Capture the Heart of His Party or Fail; Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Linford

SHORTLY after becoming leader of his party in 2005, David Cameron caused consternation among Conservative supporters by claiming that he was the true "heir to Blair".

In one sense, it was a strange move, since the former Prime Minister had by then already begun the long, slow descent from the public adulation that greeted his arrival in No 10 to the public disillusionment that hastened his departure.

But Mr Cameron's boast had a larger strategic purpose, namely to fix himself in the public mind as a politician of the centre ground and at the same time portray Mr Blair's putative successor Gordon Brown as one who would abandon that territory. And since entering Downing Street, he has continued in the same vein, claiming more than once that his health and education reforms are no more than a continuation of the changes initiated by Mr Blair a decade ago and thereby portraying Labour's opposition to them as indicative of a "lurch to the left".

Mr Cameron has also found himself praised by former Blairite apologists such as John McTernan for his policy of liberal interventionism abroad, most notably in Libya.

But over the past week, much less welcome comparisons have started to be drawn between the two leaders as the Government's political fortunes took a marked turn for the worse.

At some points over the past seven days it has looked as though recent history may be repeating itself, such is the sense of dj vu surrounding some of the Government's current crises.

Where New Labour had its 45p pension increase, the Coalition has its granny tax. Where New Labour had the fuel protests, the Coalition has the threat of a tanker drivers' strike.

And where New Labour was accused of selling honours for cash, Mr Cameron now finds himself accused of selling access.

No wonder that one of Mr Blair's former speechwriters, Phil Collins, called it the Government's worst week in office so far, before going on to note wryly that under Mr Blair, each week was portrayed as being a worse one than the last.

Far more scathing was the verdict offered by the Conservative-leaning commentator Peter Oborne, who saw this week's events as signs of a shift in the political landscape. …

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