Michael Howard won the sort of gushing headlines yesterday from Conservative-supporting newspapers that eluded his predecessors for years. He will aim to build on that by trying to woo The Sun and The Times, two Murdoch papers, back to the Tory fold.
And he will hope to count on The Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail, which have struggled for months to disguise their disillusionment with the party, for more vocal support.
A leader in The Sun said: "There is an air of excitement about Michael Howard that proves The Sun was correct to call him Mister Right. He looks, talks and acts like a leader."
The newspaper, which two days earlier compared Iain Duncan Smith to Captain Mainwaring of Dad's Army, added: "For the first time in many years, the Tories are on the verge of giving Labour a run for its money. Blair and Brown should be worried. Very worried."
According to the Daily Mail, the Tory leader-in-waiting seemed "every inch the man in command". It urged his colleagues to lend "every ounce of support" to his "awesome task". Earlier this week, it described Mr Duncan Smith as "a decent, dogged, if ineffectual man who suffered the somewhat unfortunate handicap of never looking like a potential Prime Minister".
The Daily Telegraph detected a new determination in Tory ranks. It said: "With an outbreak of harmonious unanimity, the Conservatives are demonstrating a capacity for discipline." The Times said that Mr Howard had reinforced the impression of a "supremely competent and professional politician" who had produced a speech "rich in substance".
A senior Howard aide said last night: "We're thrilled and delighted with the coverage ."
Martin Newland, the editor of The Daily Telegraph, said: "We will give him the best possible chance." But he said that Mr Howard would be "subjected to all the protocols we regard as important to the success and happiness of Middle England, which we regard as our readers.''
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail has been accused by the Daily Express of anti-Semitism over a profile of Mr Howard on Thursday by Edward Heathcoat Amory.
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