David Cameron is highly vulnerable to the charge that he is a shallow public relations man with no clear idea of how he wants to run the country.
His advisers know it, and this barbed editorial comment in today’s Daily Mail will have touched a raw nerve at CCHQ:
‘The Tory leader has undergone a transformation. Suddenly, he’s Mr Sunshine again. Discarding the garb of austerity, he now presents himself as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed optimist, listing ‘reasons to be cheerful’ in the year ahead…
‘As with the flip-flop over his promise of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, he risks insulting voters’ intelligence again….
‘Mr Cameron should spend less time with his spin-doctors, worrying about his image and trying to be all things to all men. Instead, he should concentrate on the bitter truth about the task facing next year’s election victor – a task this paper believes he is more than capable of meeting.
‘In the meantime, he would help himself if he resolved to avoid the PR men, spivs and trashy celebrities with whom he has taken to mixing.’
Tory strategists will be hoping that Dave can use the leaders’ debates to show that he is a man of substance. But unless the Tory leader quickly develops a consistent message and clear narrative, this is the type of damning coverage he may end up with…