John Rentoul has written about the core vote v modernisation issue in the Independent on Sunday today. He attributes it all to a conflict between Andy Coulson and Steve Hilton.
Since Cameron hired Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor, as his
director of communications in the early summer, the dynamics of the Tory leader's inner circle have changed. Previously, the fundamental strategy of Cameron's leadership had been set by Steve Hilton, the anonymous political consultant responsible for the radical repositioning of the Conservatives on the Blairite centre ground.
Under Hilton's guidance, Cameron went green, made the NHS his top priority and got Tory audiences to applaud gay marriage. The Conservatives were rewarded by a sustained boost in the opinion polls that lifted them above Labour. Coulson's arrival coincided with the end of that phase of Tory revival. Even before Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, the terms of trade between Government and Opposition started to shift. Once Labour regained its lead in the polls, spooked Conservatives were no longer sure that their leader was a modern Moses.
At this point, on the question of how Cameron should respond to a resurgent Labour Party, a divide opened up between Hilton and Coulson. Coulson thought it was time for Cameron to try to win back the support of the right-wing press: The Sun, the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph. Hilton thought that Cameron should stick to the script: take the centre ground; keep challenging people's expectations of the Tory party.
The tension came to a head over an accidental issue. Cameron had arranged a trip to
Rwanda to dramatise his commitment to African development, but it coincided with
flooding in Britain. Coulson wanted to abandon the trip so that Cameron could put on his wellingtons and show solidarity with Brits in Trouble at Home. Hilton argued for the trip to go ahead and won the day. Unfortunately for him, the verdict of most of the press and most of the Tory party was that the African sojourn made Cameron look out of touch. Cameron was annoyed and more ready to listen to Coulson's advice.
Rentoul says that as a tactic, Coulson's tactics may work in the short term and head off an autumn election, but in the long term they are a disaster and threaten to undermine all the gains made in Cameron's first eighteen months. Read Rentouls's article in full as it is an interesting insight. I can't say I think he's entirely on the money, but it is certainly worth further thought.
More in The Times HERE. it has some quotes from "a friend of Eliasch", but the Conservatives have issued a comment denying his resignation is anything to do with a strategy clash. "Johann Eliasch has stood down as a deputy treasurer to focus on climate change issues, however, his full and financial support for David Cameron's leadership continues."
UPDATE: It's not all bad news for the Tories. Two new polls show the party level pegging with Labour in one poll and three points behind in another. Both show the LibDems on 15%.
UPDATE: Ben Brogan's on fire tonight. He has a scoop that Tory MP John Bercow is going to be doing some work for Gordon Brown. On that note I think I shall stop, before I write anything litigious.