Cameron Cameron Cameron Cameron Cameron Cameron Cameron
It's like that sodding bit in Being John Malkovich where old John pops through the portal into his own head and stuff. Everywhere you turn now, people are raving about the Tory whizkid.
The Herald runs with the story that bookies William Hill have shortened his odds to 11/10 while lengthening them on David Davis to 5/4.
Not being a betting man I have no idea what that means, but icWales tells me it means Cameron's the favourite - and apparently his odds were 10/1 at the start of the Conference.
The Sun, however, cranks things up a notch, claiming Cameron to win Tory race - all based purely on the betting public's responses, of course. And the Sun's somewhat snide take on David Davis in response to his lambasting of the media response to the race is unlikely to help his chances much.
Nosemonkey's free advice to Tories - don't attack the media, guys. Mr Murdoch doesn't like it. You'd have thought the lessons would have been learned after Central Office threatened to sue the Times just before the General Election, but apparently Davis didn't get the memo...
So, if there's betting and there's politics, who do we turn to for advice but Political Betting? They ponder whether John Major's old whip Derek Conway could save it for Davis by bullying his pre-Conference supporters into sticking around rather than desert to the current media darling.
The Telegraph, on the other hand, ponders whether outgoing leader Michael Howard may come out for Cameron Cameron Cameron Cameron. Michael Howard, jumping on a bandwaggon? Surely not...
This may be a good juncture to return to the Guardian, who - being urban intellectual types - need something more serious than what some guy in a sheepskin jacket tells them, so commissioned an ICM poll - tellingly before the conference and Cameron's sudden media love-in - in which he was apparently rated best candidate. (Although "30% thought Mr Cameron was the worst candidate and 23% thought Mr Davis was"...)
I have to confess that I, like the Guardian, am not too happy relying on a profession that has John McCririck as its public face to tell me in which direction the oldest party in the country may be heading next, so where else to turn but Anthony Wells at his sparkly new-look, YouGov-hosted Polling Report and his overview of the polls so far. His take: "[the polls] suggest that Cameron has the advantage over Clarke and Davis in terms of image, though naturally it doesn’t necessarily follow that he is better in other ways."
But, let's face it, image is all anyone seems to care about in politics these days. Who cares about the reality or the policies when everyone's striving to occupy the middle-ground? Cameron versus Blair over the dispatch box: Cameron looks younger, less tired. Cameron wins in the clips they show on the news. Cameron versus Brown likewise.
What the Tories need to remember is that the party leader - even the Prime Minister - doesn't HAVE to be the person to provide the hand on the tiller - that's just what we've become used to in recent decades. The party leader can merely be the public face. The spokesman. The chap who stands up and takes the flak (and the credit when it's due) while the real masterminds of the operation gently guide him from the sidelines.
That's pretty much how Churchill was managed while he was party leader - roll out old Winston for special occasions, let him make one of those speeches everyone likes, and meanwhile let the men in suits sit in their smoke-filled rooms and work out the actual policies. He was a figurehead - an increasingly senile figurehead - and little more. Why not bung Cameron up there and manage him the same way - a younger, prettier, less senile Churchill?
The only problem is that in the 40s and 50s the Tories had some genuinely great political minds knocking around to provide the guidance and management. These days? Hmmm...