PM's fightback stutters as Tory backbenchers turn on leaders


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The Independent Online

David Cameron's attempt to stage a political fightback ahead of next month's local elections suffered a setback yesterday as he was hit by a wave of fresh criticism – much of it from his own party.

As part of a media offensive, following what he admitted had been a "difficult" month, Mr Cameron insisted that his "driving vision" remained intact and he defended his performance.

But within hours he was attacked by one of his own MPs for being an "arrogant posh boy" with no desire to understand the lives of ordinary voters, and was accused of making misleading comments about attempts to deport Abu Qatada.

A Conservative-dominated committee of MPs today will add to Mr Cameron's woes with a report that says he is presiding over an administration that lacks a "clear and coherent" approach. The Public Administration Committee will accuse the Government of driving through "short-term" policies that do not reflect the long-term interests of the nation. They will cite a range of mistakes over economic, defence and energy policy which they say could have "catastrophic" consequences for the country.

In another difficult day for Mr Cameron and George Osborne:

l The former Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell attacked ministers for blaming the Civil Service when things went wrong. "The Civil Service has an annoying habit of pointing out it's important to stay within the law," he said.

l Mr Osborne faced a backlash from Tory MPs for his decision to commit £10bn of extra funding to the International Monetary Fund. The former cabinet minister John Redwood said IMF funds should not be made available to any country using the euro.

l The Conservative backbencher Nadine Dorries, below, accused Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne of being "two arrogant posh boys who show no remorse, no contrition, and no passion to understand the lives of others".

l The Government suffered another defeat in the House of Lords over its legal aid reform Bill.

Government strategists had hoped to turn the corner yesterday after a month of attacks.

But, in a BBC interview, Mr Cameron appeared to make misleading comments about the deportation of Qatada. Mr Cameron said the Home Office was "told throughout" that the European Court of Human Rights' deadline for Qatada to appeal expired on the Monday night, but was later forced to admit that had only been the Home Office's "assumption" – suggesting the Government had not checked the date with the court.