Peter Hoskin

Outside the inner circle

Outside the inner circle
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It's the complaint that won't go away for the Cameroons.  We've had an article by Andrew Rawnsley; a letter allegedly written by Tory backbenchers; and, now, a column by Rachel Sylvester in today' Times: all making the point that David Cameron relies, perhaps too much, on a "clique" of close advisers, strategists and friends.  The Sylvester article contains some hard-hitting observations from Tory figures, who are disgruntled at being left on the sidelines:

"One senior Tory claims that Mr Cameron has never had a group meeting with any of the frontbench departmental teams...

...Tory backbenchers are remarkably grumpy given the state of the polls and last week’s by-election win. Shadow Cabinet ministers complain about the lack of teamwork, the absence of political discussion and the failure to consult before decisions are made. It is said that Mr Cameron is so used to having his friends around him that he will not listen to those who tell him something he does not want to hear. 'The cliquiness is awful,' says one frontbencher. 'Everyone should be very excited about the prospect of power but they’re not. People are very demoralised, there’s not much enthusiasm because the Cameron lot are so disdainful of everybody else.'

Another senior Tory says that Mr Cameron is right to say he is the heir to Blair: 'It’s sofa opposition. Let’s hope he learns the lessons from Blair of how dangerous sofa government can be'...

...'Cameron has the potential to be a really significant prime minister,' says one frontbencher, 'but he risks destroying himself because he won’t widen his circle.'"

Sure, it's hard to question the methods of a leader who has brought the Tories more success than they've seen in a generation.  But it's easy to see how the complaint about cliquishness - or even the perception of cliquishness - might cause trouble if left unchecked.  Not just because Cameron's fellow Tories will feel increasingly annoyed at being left out of the loop, but because it limits internal policy debate, and could lead to the wrong choices being made.  The upshot of that could be more and more Tory MPs finding external channels for their thoughts: as David Davis did yesterday.