It is, of course, fashionable in many media circles to focus on the so-called plight of the Labour Party, alleged dissatisfaction with Gordon Brown, and apparently disconsolate grass-roots.  However, I wonder if this focus is not blinding commentators to some significant rumbling discontent amongst the Conservatives.  This explains the continuing nervousness about what David Davies will say next .  (I suspect David Cameron would be well-advised to give him a big job quickly to bind him into the fold.)  It is also reflected in the Tory jumpiness that I have detected expressed in the sotto voce question on many Tory lips of “If the Government and Gordon Brown are doing so badly, why aren””t we doing better?”

Now the Conservative commentator, Geoffrey Wheatcroft, has dared to spell it out.  In an article this morning, he says:

“… there””s something not quite right about Cameron and his team, something fishy, something dodgy. … Those who treat politics as a spectator sport had to applaud his handling of the expenses scandal. “Blair””s heir” was a repellent phrase for many Tories, but in this matter it must be said that Cameron displayed a quick-witted, ruthless opportunism dressed up as sincere conviction worthy of the master.

All the same, that episode left an unhappy aftertaste. While placating public rage by brutally discarding a few older MPs, Cameron shielded members of his own team who were quite as culpable: Alan Duncan, Michael Gove and Francis Maude. It was the action of a capo who whacks a few civilians but spares his made men, and it caused considerable, though so far private, resentment on the Tory benches.

It also confirmed a sense that, with all his political talent, Cameron is a smartyboots surrounded by a cabal of shady charlatans and shifty chancers; a suspicion not much dispelled by the latest revelations about skulduggery at the News of the World under the man who is now Cameron””s media chief, Andy “I have no recollection” Coulson. No hindsight is required: two years ago I wrote here about the “incredible appointment” of someone “who makes Alastair Campbell seem a cross between CP Scott and Hugo Young”, and Coulson was always a disaster waiting to happen.

We””ve since learned that he had been recommended to Cameron by the accident-prone George Osborne, and he was cheered by the Tory press, or at any rate by Matthew d””Ancona in the Sunday Telegraph. D””Ancona said at the time what a splendid choice Coulson was. He now writes about this “brilliantly successful journalist” – perhaps he has in mind the “Andy Coulson””s Bizarre” showbiz column that used to adorn the Sun – and he adds that Coulson did after all resign over the bugging scandal: “As they say in Essex: the boy done his bird.”

Ha ha. So now the party of Pitt and Salisbury uses the vocabulary of the criminal classes. This is precisely the problem with “Cameronism” and “the Cameroons” (and which of their number ever thought that was a witty coining, by the way?). Clinging to the Tory team is a whiff of clever-clever cynicism, of game-playing frivolity, of calculation rather than honour. But we had quite enough of that under Blair, and the public is repelled by politics and politicians for just those reasons.”

He concludes:

“Doesn””t “Dave” Cameron play a little too obviously to the gallery, and adapt his sentiments when they don””t give satisfaction? Isn””t he surrounded, if not by crooks, then by some preening mountebanks? And hasn””t he so far failed to inspire deep and widespread trust?  …

After Chloe Smith won Norwich North, she said that it had been “a vote for clean politics and for cleaning up politics”. She was quite right, insofar as it was a vote against a hopeless, tainted and squalid Labour government. But while in successive recent elections the Labour vote has plummeted, the Tory vote hasn””t soared, or even returned to its level of not so many years ago. Could that be because character still counts with the electorate?”

Oh dear!  And this is from the man who wrote the paeon to Margaret Thatcher, “The Strange Death of Tory England“.

And now another example of a Conservative candidate embarrassed by the Party Leader.

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