David Cameron is likely to face the first big challenge to his authority as Conservative Party leader when he tells his MPs to support Tony Blair's proposed school reforms, according to allies of the challenger, David Davis.
Mr Cameron is expected to take office at 3pm today, when the result of the leadership contest is announced. He has said he wants to replace "Punch and Judy politics" with a more "responsible" style of opposition. This would include supporting Mr Blair when he brings forward legislation that is in line with Tory ideas, such as the proposals to allow state schools to make themselves independent of local council control.
But long-serving Tory MPs are warning of trouble if they are asked to help save Mr Blair from a potential Commons defeat. One said: "The only time recently when something that happened in this place really registered with the public was when Blair was defeated over the Terrorism Bill. If Blair is saved from defeat by Tory votes, that would be a sensation in here, but all that would register out there would be that Blair got his legislation through. Is it really our job to prop up the Prime Minister's reputation?"
The former Tory leader, Iain Duncan Smith, backed Mr Cameron's strategy. "Some people say they are never going to back the Government, but you can embarrass them by supporting them. I'm totally up for that, if it works," he said.
One of Mr Cameron's first tasks over the next few days - assuming that he is tomorrow's victor - will be to assemble a shadow cabinet in which Mr Davis will be offered a post he feels he can accept without being humiliated. Mr Davis is expected to be offered the post of shadow Defence Secretary. The former Tory leader William Hague is tipped to return to the front bench as shadow Foreign Secretary.Reuse content