James Forsyth

Cameron in front of the press

Cameron in front of the press
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David Cameron was in confident form at his press conference this morning. Most of the questions were about the possibility of President Blair and Tory opposition to that. But three other things from the event were worth noting.

First, Cameron’s announcement that the Tories will publish their top three or four priorities for each department shows the influence of the Institute for Government on Tory thinking. Michael Bichard, the director of the Institute, was David Blunkett’s permanent secretary at the Department for Education and Employment and Blunkett’s success in this job is largely credited to him and Bichard working out a few priorities and sticking to them. The Tories are now adopting this Bichard / Blunkett approach for every department.

Second, Cameron’s comments on women shortlists did, as ConservativeHome notes, seem to mark a bit of a shift in policy. If the proposal had been couched in these terms to begin with, I doubt there would have been such a row — a row that both managed to irritate the grassroots and, in various quarters, reinforced negative stereotypes about the party. All in all, this business has been a poor piece of politics and party management from Team Cameron.

Third, Cameron’s lightness of touch allows him to dodge tricky questions. For example, when questioned about Alex Salmond’s recent comments about making the English dance to a Scottish tune, Cameron joked that he was ‘all in favour of Scottish dancing.’ One question, though, did stump him: Quentin Letts asking him, apropos of Blair’s attempt to become EU president, what he would like to do in his retirement.