My argument to my own party is that David Cameron has passed his first
test, it's now time to show a bit of discipline and pass yours...
All of us - in all parties - like to gossip and speculate on who the next party leader will be from time to time - but that's all it is, idle gossip. No one seriously believes that David Cameron's position is under threat despite the difficulties of the last few weeks - and nor should it be. His 67% vote in the leadership contest gave him the mandate to lead the Party into the next election. Anyone who launches a leadership bid against Cameron would be deservedly crushed.
Matthew D'Ancona, in a piece on the Spectator Coffee House blog, says the real conclusion of Fraser's article is not that he's trying to cause mischief but...
What Fraser's piece shows is that there is no clear post-Cameron Plan B and no obvious dauphin waiting in the wings with a plan. No wonder Tory MPs are so
rattled and were so supportive of their embattled leader at the 1922 meeting yesterday evening. But, as today's poll in the Daily Telegraph shows, the voters have already formed the impression that Dave is not in charge of his party. I am told that his performance before his MPs last night was very impressive: he will need to make many more such speeches after the recess. The Conservative Party is dicing with death.
Overly dramatic maybe, but one lesson I learned from reading Alastair Campbell's Diaries was that Tony Blair would often have periods when he became run down, disengaged and demotivated. So did Campbell, for that matter. It has occured to me that David Cameron cannot possibly be expected to function on all cylinders 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. He needs more support from his Shadow Cabinet colleagues.
It is not Cameron who needs to up his game, it is them. Ben Brogan's story on his blog about the number of outside interests some of them have has to be part of the reason why some - and I emphasis, some - of them are virtually anonymous from a media profile viewpoint. They should all read Campbell's diaries and if they are not able to give the same level of commitment that most of the Labour Shadow Cabinet did between 1994 and 1997 then they shouldn't be in their positions.
But it's not just about having outside interests. No matter what their qualities are, some of them are just useless at getting media coverage - and in Opposition, that's what it is all about. And you do not get media coverage by bombarding the Westminster lobby with emailed press releases. Yesterday I got four press releases in ten minutes from CCHQ. The temptation is to ignore them when they come flying at you so quickly. Andy Coulson's challenge is to educate Shadow Ministers and CCHQ on ways to get press coverage over and above the normal press release. Some Shadow Ministers will find this an easier process than others to adapt to. If you've been doing it in the same way for ten years change is not an easy process.