Anyone who thinks that removing Mr. Cameron at this juncture is the answer to the present drop in the polls and the sudden outbreak of critical coverage is, I believe, wrong.

One has to contemplate the message that that would send to the electorate about order and stability in the conservative party which I surely that the party is both divided and unable to find a leader who can stay the course. Such a perception will lead inevitably to the electorate either turning to the parties of the left or centre-left or, in the case of those on the right who are unable to stomach the idea of voting for socialism, staying at home or voting for UKIP (if that increasingly moribund organisation continues to exist much longer) and yet another piece of electoral oblivion for the Conservative Party. Anyone who believes otherwise is, I am afraid, misguided and wholly mistaken.

What has gone wrong in the past three months? Much of it comes down to poor judgement and a failure effectively to manage events as they occur.

The first thing that went wrong was the issue of Grammar Schools. This started to run as a story because of the cack-handed way in which David Willetts set out policy on schools. He should have started by praising the contribution Grammar Schools have made and reassuring those areas that still have and continue to want to retain Grammar Schools that they would continue to be supported from the centre. Nothing should have been said to denigrate Grammar Schools as vehicles of social mobility but it could easily have been made clear that for areas where no Grammar Schools exist another route to excellence would be tried.

There followed a failure to close the story down straight away. That is down to Mr. Cameron and the Party’s news managers. Mr. Cameron’s mistake was to stick his fingers up the nostrils of supporters of Grammar Schools by using words like ‘pointless’ and delusional’ in a dismissing their arguments in a manner that was perceived as offhand and arrogant. Intelligent people in our party who espouse a particular policy rightly expect a higher level of courtesy and debate than that. Forcing one minister to resign for a strong expression of opposition to this policy but not so doing to another who was more discreet in his opposition despite that opposition becoming public was also unwise, particularly in the way Graham Brady was trashed by the Spin masters which left a nasty taste in the mouth. The story was then allowed to run and run and Mr. Cameron must take the personal blame for not knocking it on the head after a week at most. Instead it was left to fester.

The second mistake of the year was a curious assumption that Labour’s unpopularity under Blair would inevitably carry over into the Brown era. I would far rather that Blair had soldiered on to the end as he obviously planned to do before giving Brown a few months in office before the next election was suddenly upon him. I am convinced that Blair would have been the most unpopular person on earth by then and Labour in so bad a position that recovery was impossible.

We had forgotten that John Major (surely one of the worst Tory PMs ever) managed, despite being awful, to win by not being Margaret Thatcher and that, many Labour supporters, who had either abstained or voted LibDem did so because of Iraq, would almost certainly move smartly back home if Brown gave even a small sign of changing course on Iraq and ditching some obviously unpopular policies. Brown has done precisely that and by dint of sleight of hand has fashioned a handsome dividend in the polls.

We were extremely complacent about Brown, believing that the rough ride he had been getting earlier this year would also carry over into his premiership. Some in the party advocated keeping a low profile during the Brown coronation waltz to the throne. I think that was a grave error. We should, instead, have matched every puff for Brown with a relentless period of attack on him, his policies, his way of doing business and his Camarilla of Scots and Northern chums and chumettes. At every turn there should have been attacks on the pension scandal, gold sales, stealth taxes, Macavityism, Stalinist methods of doing business, his control freakery, the illegitimacy of his position as a Scots MP ramming through policies for England for which he remains immune from accountability from English voters…Instead he was given a free ride.

The third mistake was the conduct of the two by-elections. One need not go over again the detail of why those went badly. These were two seats which we not held in modern times and, save in the event of a 1983-like event for Labour, are unlikely to do so. Our aspirations should have been lowered to coming second in both and giving Brown a serious fright in Ealing Southall. If one was to pick one particular mistake there, aside from the candidate, it would be the decision to use the phrase “David Cameron’s Conservatives” which was made me cringe and was inevitably a hostage to fortune. So it proved.

Finally, a perception had been allowed to grow that we were did not seem to be attacking the enemy enough or indeed at all. Of this perception Mr. Cameron’s ill-judged decision to swan off to Rwanda whilst the country was going through its worst floods in living memory was but a symptom: it seemed to me to be an obvious decision to make but Mr. Cameron was persuaded otherwise. All he had do to was remember Jim Callaghan’s unfortunate trip to the West Indies during the “winter of discontent” in 1978-79 to realize that there are no votes in nice foreign trips, however good the motive, whilst there are serious problems of this kind at home, only grief.

This year has seen a number of occasions when Labour seemed ripe for attack but the Conservative party seemed not to be utilizing those to best advantage. An unfavourable comparison with the period 1994-1997, when Labour attacked anything that moved if it had a Tory label on it and kept attacking until the last vestige of juice had been extracted from it, can properly be made.

So what now?

Firstly, those of us who have been critical of Cameron must believe that our concerns have been heard and, more importantly, that they will be acted upon. If that is so then Mr. Cameron deserves a further period to show leadership and good judgement and we need to exercise self restraint in allowing him further time to demonstrate that the show is on the road again and that we are eating into and suppressing the Labour lead in the polls. Therefore a period of self-imposed abjuring of criticism is necessary.

Secondly we urgently need policies and to this end the policy review groups must complete their tasks as soon as possible so that, by the time of the conference policies are in place for presentation.

Thirdly, let the attack dogs loose on Labour.

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