Davis goes back to his roots to prove street credentials

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He will visit the Base Community Centre in Tooting, used by pupils from Mr Davis's old school, then Bec Grammar School.

His choice of location will bring attention to the contrast between his beginnings, as the child of a single mother living on a council estate, and those of his rival, David Cameron. Mr Cameron is an old Etonian, the grandson of a baronet, and a descendant of the Talbots, one of the most powerful families in England under the Plantagenet kings.

In a speech last night to the Conservative 1900 group, Mr Davis put himself forward as the only candidate able to win back the suburbs for the Tories. He quoted a phrase used by President George Bush, "good for me, good for my neighbour" to describe the tax cuts, family values, tough law and order policies on which he is campaigning.

Having started as the clear front runner, Mr Davis's campaign has faltered and many believe hs is too far behind to win. But Mr Davis offered an olive branch to his rival, praising Mr Cameron as someone who has "given a lot to the Conservative Party", promising a "very, very big place in any shadow Cabinet I lead".

Mr Cameron visited Newbury, one of the seats the Tories recaptured from the Liberal Democrats last May. He said the way to win over Liberal Democrat voters was to present a "modern, compassionate alternative".

The members' ballot to decide the leadership closes on 6 December.