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7 April 2010

The question David Cameron must answer in this campaign

He says the Tories have been on a journey. From where, to where?

By James Macintyre

If I have one or two loyal readers, they will know that I’ve repeatedly highlighted the fascinating moment, in April 2006, when David Cameron was asked a simple question by the reporter Joey Jones on Sky News. The question went something along the lines of: “You have said you wake up every morning and think, ‘How can I change the Conservative Party today?’ What aspects of the party do you not like?”

Well, what Cameron did not like was the question, and a brief description of his answer can be found in the first paragraph of this piece here.

The reason I’m not able to provide a link to the footage itself is that Sky — so far, at least — has refused to release it. But it strikes me that it goes to the heart, still, of the “Cameron project”, and its failure to institute real change in the main policy areas, and should be asked again — and again — during this campaign.

Now, I am not the first person to prescribe what Cameron should be asked; Peter Hitchens, for example, has provided a list of questions. But, like Hitchens, I don’t expect to be at the top of the list of journalists given access to Cameron in the next few weeks. However (again like Hitchens), I would naturally be delighted to have the opportunity to conduct a constructively critical interview, and I do hope to attend a few of the Tory leader’s election press conferences.

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But in the meantime, someone should return to that question from 2006. Cameron is an incredibly good media performer. He is sharp, witty and articulate. But he is at his worst when offered the chance to criticise his own party in the way that Tony Blair regularly did. Similarly, faced with policy dilemmas and the need to jump left or right, he opts for the latter.

So I humbly recommend that my media colleagues take up the question. Cameron, after all, now talks in the perfect tense about his party having been — been — on a journey.

The question is, “From where, to where?”