As David Cameron completes his first 100 days, the man he defeated for the leadership gives his first interview to Fraser Nelson — and foresees policy battles to come
As I wait for David Davis in the corner of his huge House of Commons office, it’s easy to forget that he was the loser of the Conservative party’s leadership race. Aides nervously shuttle in and out, taking notes as he plans the day like a military operation. He has injured his wrist while rock-climbing, and uses a special laptop computer which looks like one big screen with no keys. I remark that I saw the same device in a Tom Cruise film, used by a hitman to identify his victims. ‘Yes, you can do that with it, too,’ he says cheerfully. We sit down to business.
Only six months ago Davis was on his own assassination mission. He was front-runner to be the 20th leader of the Conservative party and his main opponent was a politician 18 years his junior, with a fraction of his parliamentary experience. He saw Cameron as easy prey, and regarded him with unvarnished contempt, but soon realised his mistake as he was outgunned, outclassed and soundly defeated. As they debated with each other across Britain, they forged an unlikely mutual respect which has today brought them into partnership. With Cameron set to complete his first 100 days as leader on 16 March, Davis sees himself not just as a supporter of the Cameron revolution, but as one of its joint architects.
This is his first interview since the leadership election, and he is routinely referring to his party as the ‘Cameron Conservatives’ while laying joint claim to its success. ‘Look at the standing of the party,’ he says. ‘Improvement started early on in the leadership campaign. And I’m conceited enough to think I contributed towards it’ — by the nature and tenor of the debate.