The head-to-head between Conservative leadership contenders David Cameron and David Davis went ahead last night and, while it made interesting viewing, it didn't quite live up to the hype.
He’d never get my vote, but if I was a true-blue Conservative I would probably be backing Davis on the strength of last night’s performance. It was much more polished than his disastrous showing at the recent conference, and seemed to offer substance to his policies, compared to Cameron’s Blair-esque vagueness.
Cameron is likeable and draws a stark contrast to the usual stiffs that the Tories throw up. He could certainly appeal to a broader audience and pick up a number of disillusioned Labour voters but he doesn’t yet look like the finished article. At times last night he looked almost petrified, while his youthful, podgy face makes him look more like a sixth former at a college debating contest than a Prime Minister in waiting. Throw him in the pit against a Blair or a Brown and he’d be torn to pieces. I felt quite sorry for him when an audience member said something like: “You’re very good in your stage-managed comfort zone, but I wouldn’t trust you to run a bath”. Ouch. Though to be fair, he handled that one quite well.
Davis on the other hand embodies that “I know best”, patriarchal position that the Tories feel most at home with. He put forward his beliefs with clarity and stuck very much to the official Conservative script: tax cuts, the family, clawing back power from Europe, law and order. I bet the jam-making set in Berkshire were sucking it up like thirsty goats.
A real dilemma for the party then: a conviction leader with limited appeal (and a slightly sinister air, like a psychotic headmaster) or a fresh faced universalist lacking any real ideas or experience.
I look forward to round 2. . .