The Constituency: 'They say it's a leap in the dark. It's not. It's a leap of faith'

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Indy Politics

The cramped quarters of the West Oxfordshire Conservatives' Association were no match for the crowd of Tory loyalists who had gathered in David Cameron's Witney constituency to celebrate his appointment as party leader.

As the 3pm declaration neared, the group was forced to decamp to The New Inn, a 200-year-old, award-winning pub near by, where Mr Cameron can occasionally be found leaning on the bar. Glasses were dutifully raised as they watched on TV the Conservative grandee Michael Spicer announcing their man had attracted more than twice as many votes as his rival, David Davis.

The landlord Martin Cornish, also deputy chairman of the association, said Mr Cameron had re-energised the party - and would have the same effect on the country if he won the next general election.

"David has made us wake up and see there is something to fight for," he said. "His message has been very clear: this country is great and the future is blue. The difference he brings is energy. He has shoved this party's grumbling straight back at us and said: 'Get on with it'. We are all very happy, thrilled that we can finally say what we have thought all along - that he is our leader.People say this is a leap in the dark, but it is not, it is a leap of faith. The Conservative Party doesn't consist of one man alone, but if one man can assemble the party around him, that party will be unstoppable."

The big difference was Mr Cameron's appeal to younger voters, said Emma Liston, 25, secretary of the association. "[He] can bring them back on board. He is young and vibrant, and he really is a genuine guy."

Ms Liston, one of the association's youngest members, said she thought the 39-year-old's "vitality" - alongside his ability to connect with young Britons through his enthusiasm for television shows like Little Britain and bands like The Killers - meant the Tories could reach out to a lost generation.

Ken Searle, 81, an ex-Royal Marine and the local branch chairman, conceded that he was "not the traditional young person that Mr Cameron is supposed to appeal to". "But he still enthuses me. I really think he can bring a fresh start for the country."

The excitement had got a bit too much for a few supporters, who said they were going home for "a cup of tea and a lie-down".

Those remaining believed Mr Cameron would perform well in his first test against Tony Blair today at Prime Minister's Questions. Reacting to criticism that the new Tory leader was "Blair-lite" and concerned with image over policy, Mr Cornish said Mr Cameron had "a lot of things now that Tony Blair has possibly lost - he is enthusiastic, he has the trust of his party and he has faith in where he is going". With that, he returned to a party that seemed set to last all night.

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