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No Iron Man: David Cameron receives Lady Thatcher at 10 Downing Street. Now he must engage with her legacy (PA Images) 

David Cameron's party doesn't really love its leader. Talk to a cross-section of his MPs and it is clear that many respect him — admiring his considerable self-confidence, his to-the-manor-born command of the House of Commons and composure in the aftermath of crisis such as this summer's rioting. But for a lot of Tories in parliament and out in the country it appears to go no further than that.

"I feel almost schizophrenic when I see him perform in the House," says a veteran Tory MP. "In one sense it is captivating. He has a very stylish delivery and sounds as though he means it all, the conservative stuff I mean. And then the other part of me thinks no, it's just hot air and in the end he'll never do what needs doing."

Watch him in front of a crowd of big-money Tory donors at one of the party's black-tie fundraisers and you see that the applause is polite but little more than perfunctory. Some guests shift uncomfortably in their seats when they are shown smug films of senior Cameroons mending youth-centre roofs and are told patronisingly in the subsequent after-dinner speeches about the need to build the "Big Society". Even Cameroon true believers, a pretty small band in the first place, suddenly seem rather deflated with how his tenure is going.

Conservatives have had plenty of time to get to know their deeply frustrating leader properly and to come to a rounded judgment on his merits and his weaknesses.

It is easy to forget, thanks to the impression of youthful vigour that the Prime Minister conveys, that he is no longer the new kid on the block. Next month is the sixth anniversary of his famous Blackpool peroration in which he offered to take his party, in the ghastly modern parlance, on "a journey". That sunny message in the autumn of 2005 made front-runner David Davis look out of date. Weeks later Cameron swept to the leadership.

Six years is as long as his hero Macmillan was Tory leader (1957-1963) and almost as long as Major was (kind of) in charge of the Conservative party from 1990 to 1997. If the next election is held in May 2015, as the coalition plans, Cameron will fight it having been leader for almost the same length of time as the disastrous Ted Heath.

The typical pattern of British postwar party leadership suggests that he is already probably around halfway through his allotted time, and perhaps even on a downward trajectory. Cameron himself has indicated that he has no desire to go "on and on", in the phrase of a former party leader. He tells friends that he has seen what staying too long has done to previous prime ministers' sense of equilibrium and consequently is not aiming to be a record-breaker. Indeed, the working assumption internally (certainly the expectation of George Osborne, who hopes to secure the Tory succession) is that Cameron aims to win an election in 2015 and step aside a couple of years later. 

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September 5th, 2011
12:09 PM
He intends to fight the next election then stand down in a couple of years? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! How many times have we heard that one? Just how credulous are you?!

September 2nd, 2011
4:09 PM
I like Ken Hall shall not be voting Conservative again,the reasons are manifest but the outright deception on what would be acted upon both pre and post election does it for me ,not just the blindingly obvious EU ,immigration that are just getting worse,but the waste in spending in all areas ,the quangos that never went ,PFI yes its back etc etc. I relayed all this and my despair at the way things were going to my local Conservative MP ,didn't even get a reply and i've voted for the party all my life ,they dont seem to stand for anything that i would call Conservative anymore ,all the parties seem afraid of losing those few votes that swing elections in this country so do nothing for fear of losing office,personally i wouldn't vote for any of the major parties they dont represent the people who put in power and as is becoming obvious throughout the western world it seems its the same everywhere.

September 2nd, 2011
12:09 PM
What I find so extraordinary about these right-wing blogs is the failure to recognise that the vast majority of those who voted Conservative in the last election largely still support Cameron. His approval rate among Conservative voters is between 85 and 90%. Yet when I read these blogs they are full of angry people claiming that in some way Cameron has betrayed them. Which leads me to suspect one of two things. Either all the polls are disastrously wrong, which I think is unlikely. Or those who think they are the true Conservatives - step forward Simon Heffer, Iain Martin and the like - are totally out of touch with those who voted Conservative in the last election. More than that they are people who will probably never warm to Cameron, and will tend to read into his every action and word the basest motive.

Ken Hall
September 2nd, 2011
10:09 AM
I am sad to say that I shall no longer vote Conservative. On the two most important issues, on the issues which define and shape all the other issues, the tories are exactly the same as the liberals and labour. Those issues are the EU and tackling 'climate change' in a manner which undermines all efforts to build our economy. On both issues UKIP are in tune with the majority view in this country and the liberals, labour and conservatives all support the same minority and shrinking view. More and more policies have to adhere to EU regulations and have to be shaped with a view to impacts upon 'climate change'. We need a government on the right side of these issues, or we genuinely face economic and political catastrophe.

September 2nd, 2011
9:09 AM
I think the phrase you mean to use in the second sentence is "to the manner born".

September 2nd, 2011
9:09 AM
Scooby-Dooby-Doo, Where Are You? We got some work to do now. Scooby-Dooby-Doo, Where Are You? We need some help from you now. Come on Scooby-Doo, I see you... pretending you got a sliver But you're not fooling me, cause I can see, the way you shake and shiver. You know we got a mystery to solve, So Scooby Doo be ready for your act. [Scooby Doo] Uh-uh Uh-uh Don't hold back! And Scooby Doo if you come through you're going to have yourself a scooby snack! That's a fact! Scooby-Dooby-Doo, here Are You. You're ready and you're willing. If we can count on you Scooby Doo, I know you'll catch that villian.

September 2nd, 2011
9:09 AM
Too true! Cameron is devious, untrustworthy. a pathological breaker of promises, a green zealot who would put this Country's wellbeing below that of an amoeba,a treachorous eu supporter who would put this Country's wellbeing above that of a pathologically corrupt institution, who would rather fling money at lost causes round the World rather than finance and support his own Country - NEED I CARRY ON???

James W
September 2nd, 2011
9:09 AM
Iain, I don't disagree with your article and many of the points raised. However, I am concerned that your views are all inward looking. As Conservatives we need to sell our policies to the general public and not just expect them to like them. Cameron is still popular in the country and more popular than the party he leads. Furthermore, yes he didn't win the election - but the electoral hurdle he had to cross was bigger than any other leader has ever achieved (and he got a record number of new MPs elected). My own opinion is that we should focus on deficit reduction, education and welfare. The other areas should be about damage limitation and building a wider consensus and mandate with the public to take into the next election. Supply-side growth strategies are great - but the public are de-leveraging (which they need to do) so simply encouraging spending and the formation of new economic bubbles is unwise. I still have hope for Cameron - and the education and welfare reforms his administration have initiated will prove to be a popular legacy even if his own premiership doesn't last as long as Blair or Thatcher.

barry laughton
September 1st, 2011
10:09 PM
The difference between Cameron and Thatcher is that Thatcher had vision. Her actions followed that vision. The electorate knew what they were voting for. I really don't know what Cameron believes in so I don't know whether he is following through on his vision or not. Or whether his vision is my vision

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