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5 March 2007updated 27 Sep 2015 5:44am

Cameron’s own goals

Tory errors go relatively unnoticed as people focus on Labour's factional skirmishes

By Martin Bright

It all might have been so different. The last days of February 2006 could so easily have marked the point when the wheels came off the Conservative revival. The week ended with a distinctly shaky performance from David Cameron in Israel where he had felt it necessary to assure Foreign Office officials that he would try not to “screw up”. Yet by sticking to the script provided by the pro-Arab mandarins he provoked the disdain of the Israeli government by suggesting that it is standing in the way of peace by continuing to build settlements in the West Bank.

His first unpromising stab at statesmanship coincided with his shadow chancellor being forced into a clarification that the party’s new policy initiatives on tax breaks for married couples, border police and drug rehabilitation were not spending commitments, had not been costed or approved by the leadership.

Meanwhile, the uneasy truce between Cameron and his defeated leadership rival David Davis appeared to wobble when the shadow home secretary took on the government in parliament over reforms of the prison and probation service in apparent defiance of the new Conservative strategy of not opposing the government for the sake of it.

At any other time in the past decade such a sequence of own goals would have been seen as proof that the Tories were still not fit for government.

They would then have been gloriously capped by the announcement this week of an alliance with the crazy flatearthers of the Czech Civic Democrat Party.

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Those around Gordon Brown are deeply frustrated that instead of the narrative outlined above, the headlines were dominated by factional skirmishes within the Labour Party and wild speculation about a leadership challenge to the Chancellor from Environment Secretary David Miliband.

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