Opinion: Notting Hill Tories seek 'normal' image

The Tories have become notorious for damaging leadership contests but at least this time around there are more genuine contenders and they span two generations.

Most interest is inevitably focused on the youth, and the 'Blair and Brown' of the Tory Party,George Osborne and David Cameron. They are part of the 'Notting Hill set' of young, trendy Conservatives, which also includes Rachel Whetstone, Michael Howard's chief of staff. Howard has only fuelled interest in the pair by promoting them to shadow chancellor and education spokesman respectively.

About to face Gordon Brown across the despatch box, there is no doubt Osborne has the most difficult task. Should he succeed, the 33-year-old stands a good chance of becoming the youngest Tory leader since, er, William Hague. But I reckon Osborne is far too canny a chap to go for the top job just yet.

He certainly doesn't lack the confidence however, having attended the exclusive St Paul's public school. His pal Cameron actually went one better by going to Eton for his education. But herein lies their biggest problem.

They are both perceived to be far too posh to lead a new, 'inclusive' Tory Party, which desperately needs to win back the centre ground of politics.

The pair know this only too well and have been working the media hard to change their image. Cameron sensibly chose the Labour-supporting Observer rather than The Daily Telegraph for an exclusive interview at the weekend.

His claim to be a big fan of Desperate Housewives may be complete rubbish, but it is all part of his campaign to make himself seem normal. Cameron has also been talking warmly about his family, and for someone so obsessed with politics, he has done a good job in presenting himself as a fan of bands from The Smiths and Radiohead to Snow Patrol. He'll be claiming he's from the Harrow Road end of Notting Hill and wears a hoodie next.

But much of this has been heard from the Tories before and if they are ever to win again they must mean what they say and modernise. They could do worse than adopt the Labour slogan 'forward not back' and reject the notion of electing Ken Clarke as leader, who at 64 is too old.

I can't believe that Osborne will come out of his battles with the Chancellor unscathed but Cameron shouldn't find it too difficult to unsettle Ruth Kelly. By plumping for Cameron and youth, no clearer message could be sent to the voters that the Tories really are changing.

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