Those still wondering why the opinion polls are looking less good for Young Dave might usefully study the gallery of faces sitting behind their leader last Sunday when he made his thoroughly rehearsed and no doubt jolly good speech. And, after checking out the faces, consider not just that Joe and Joanne Public may not recognise very many of them, but that those they do recognise may not be so positively perceived.
Apart from Cameron himself, very few are universally known: the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the Seventeenth Baronet, is one, but others who have encountered him may have formed the same impression I did on the morning of the Crewe and Nantwich by-election: that he is instantly dislikeable. William ‘Ague is also well known, but the last time Master ‘Ague was key to a Tory General Election campaign, as leader in 2001, the Tories were thoroughly trounced.
Some might recall Theresa May, but that too might not poll well: after all, she is known for reminding the Tories of their being “the nasty party”. Liam Fox and Andrew Lansley may provoke a flicker of recognition, if only to ask who they really are. Small wonder that Fat Ken was brought back into the Tory mainstream: he not only brings experience of Government, but is perceived as an agreeable kind of bloke, even for those who dislike his past association with the tobacco industry.
A similar line of thought has been followed today by the Guardian’s Michael White, who has stressed the lack of experience in Team Cameron – even, tellingly, compared to Tony Blair’s first cabinet of 1997.