Michael White: Dave's media style comes under fire

Apart from the 'Old Etonian' blot on David Cameron's CV, the Tory leader has a second skeleton in his ancestral cupboard. Indeed, while post-industrial Britain hardly seems bothered by Eton any more, it may mind more that Cameron used to write for The Guardian's website.

Labour HQ only knows this because it trawled the internet in search of youthful indiscretions on the part of the Tory leader. It has generally been disappointed: Dapper Dave has been discreet since the nursery ('I'm sure we can cut a deal over the missing Ribena, nanny').

And, as it happened, his writing for The Guardian was modern and counter-intuitive, hallmarks of what we are coming to know as the Cameron style: tieless but not clueless. He demonstrated this again with last weekend's green speech to the Tory spring forum, held not in Harrogate (Old Tory), but in metrosexual Manchester.

Log on to the Tory website and Cameron's communications style hits you full in the face. There are blogs and email opportunities, a photo gallery and even a webcast, admittedly under the less-than-
enticing headline 'David Cameron and Eric Pickles: Live Online'. It also has a link to Boris Johnson MP's blog. Here we find him being denounced by a vigilante as 'a pompous Tory buffoon', whose mistreatment at the hands of Air France (the Boris blog's topic) is attributed to his being a remnant of the last 'feudal aristocracy in the civilised world'. Such is the flipside of technology.

Webcasts, blogs and customised mailing in key marginals – the modernising Tories are doing them all. Good. But so is the BNP.

A Tory MP rang me recently to admit that 'the kid' as doing much better than he dared hope. 'f you'd told me a year ago that the person to give us a future would be an Old Etonian smoothie, well...'

Interestingly, my friend's fear is not that Cameron is all Blairite PR and no policy. He understands that policy pronouncements can wait until Dave is pitted against Prime Minister Brown. And he knows that Cameron has tweaked the brand and consistently demonstrates emotional intelligence.

What does upset him though is Cameron's running fight with UKIP ('fruitcakes and closet racists') whose votes he must go out and win back. It smacks of William Hague's besetting sin: chasing headlines instead of long-term strategy.

As Cameron's honeymoon ends, the pressure will only mount. My advice: bide your time and pray for Gordon – soon. He may be your best hope.

Michael White is assistant editor of The Guardian. Kate Nicholas is away.

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