David Cameron really must do something about the quality of the Conservatives’ leaked documents. Once they offered delicious details of the infighting and reprisals which occupied the party for more than a decade. Yet the leaked memo which emerged last Friday simply warned that the party cannot ‘sit back and let Gordon Brown self-destruct’ and must be ‘as radical in social reform as Mrs Thatcher was in economic reform’. On first glance, utterly unnewsworthy. But on a wider level, it suggests a significant shift in ambition.
Radicalism is a relatively new idea for Mr Cameron. His initial strategy was to minimise the difference with Labour, making the leap as small as possible for wavering voters. His main promise would be to rid England of Gordon Brown, a proposition which the opinion polls show to be wildly popular. Only now that victory seems secure does the opportunity for bolder Thatcher-style radicalism present itself.
This is perhaps why the definitive account of the start of the Thatcher revolution — Just In Time by Sir John Hoskyns — has found its way to the bookshelves of some of the more radical-minded Cameroons. The memoirs detail the struggle of Hoskyns, a businessman, brought in to shatter the political consensus and make the case for radical change. ‘It is not difficult to carry the country,’ Angus Maude told him at the time. ‘The problem is the shadow Cabinet.’
A generation later and it is the late Lord Maude’s son, Francis, who is running Mr Cameron’s answer to the Hoskyns group. Named the Implementation Team, it is designed to address the lack of experience on Mr Cameron’s front bench by assigning each shadow Cabinet member with two ‘mentors’ — one from the business world, and one from the civil service.