David Davis goes off-message

Cameron challenger praises welfare state and complains of "top jobs" going to "public school" types.

David Davis, who got down to the last two in the 2005 Tory leadership contest, running against David Cameron, is a dangerous politician to have outside the tent because he has principles and speaks his mind. This is partly why the New Statesman identified him as one for Cameron to look out for in 2010.

Now Davis, who pressed the eject button from his frontbench role as shadow home secretary in 2008, has given a speech to business leaders in Bristol that has yet to be picked up nationally, but which contains some intriguing passages.

First, he praises the postwar Labour prime minister Clement Attlee, who is credited with creating the National Health Service and the welfare state, and compares him, in effect, to Margaret Thatcher:

Attlee created the modern welfare state at a time when the country was bankrupt after the war. Mrs Thatcher transformed the country after 1979 when it was at its lowest ebb.

Next, he bemoans the loss of manufacturing in Britain:

For far too long we have allowed manufacturing in this country to decline and relied too much on the growth of the financial sector. We need to change our attitude to making things -- if Germany can do it, we can do it.

Next, he goes on to complain about neglect for the poor, and attacks the way in which most top jobs are taken by those from "public-school backgrounds":

The second area of concern is social mobility. Youngsters from poorer backgrounds have less chance now of making their way in the world than ever before. Despite everything, more of the top jobs in our country are being taken by people from public-school backgrounds. If we are to compete in the 21st century, we need to give maximum opportunity to everyone.

Finally, he attacks both the Tories and Labour for neglecting civil liberties, the issue over which he resigned:

I believe we have seen a serious erosion of our liberty over the last decade. Successive governments have limited our individual freedoms, sometimes with the right motives, but that should not deter us from sweeping away these new barriers.

And, in conclusion, he issues what is not exactly a rallying call for a Tory government:

As we look ahead to the next decade, the next prime minister, from whatever party they come, will need a huge amount of courage and conviction to achieve all of these things.

How many of those points, one wonders, does David Cameron agree with? Perhaps he should be asked.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.