Last night I was at a Policy Exchange debate where I was proposing the motion that Cameron has changed the Tory party for good. They expected 40 guests, but had 300 applications so we moved to a larger venue. Why the crowd? Part of it is this strange, voracious appetite for debate in London right now reflected in the phenomenal success of the Spectator/Intelligence Squared debates
. And part of it is the simple pulling power of the Gover. At the end of it, a queue formed to speak to Michael Gove, who was like me proposing the motion. He was on classic form, dividing leaders into fag-enders (Eden after Churchill, George Bush after Reagan) and agenda-setters (Thatcher, Clinton, Cameron). Cameron had "diverted deep currents" in the party, he said. I said he had reoriented it to the classic Tory mission: liberating people from state socialism. We won the motion on a show of hands, but only one bloke said he had changed his mind.
As for the other side, Liam Byrne said Cameron was a coup of spin, and credited Andy Coulson with the success. His backup was David Aaronovitch, who said Cameron still had the nasty old approach to Europe and a dismal foreign policy.
Anyway, a great event. It got me thinking that interest in political ideas is of the same level that propelled Will Hutton's book to such levels. There is a huge appetite for political argument right now. And a huge opportunity for Cameron if he can satisfy it.