Andrew Grice: Cameron and the love that dare not speak its name

These days the Prime Minister prefers to learn lessons from Blair's mistakes

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The Independent Online

When he became Conservative Party leader in 2005, it suited David Cameron to describe himself as the "heir to Blair". After all, Tony Blair had just won three general elections in a row.

Although the Blair label infuriated traditional Tories who would have preferred a "son of Thatcher", it reflected a genuine admiration of the former Prime Minister by the Cameron circle. Below the radar, there were even close social links between his "Notting Hill set" of Tory modernisers and their Blairite counterparts.

The Tory mods copied the "Blair playbook" for opposition – reading and re-reading The Unfinished Revolution, a handy and candid guide written by Lord (Philip) Gould, Mr Blair's personal pollster. It also suited the Tories to accuse Gordon Brown of diluting Mr Blair's public service reforms when he became Prime Minister in 2007. The Tories pledged to complete Mr Blair's unfinished business.

Once Mr Cameron got his hands on the levers of power, he was less in thrall to Mr Blair. These days he prefers to learn lessons from the former Prime Minister's mistakes. Hence his determination to press ahead quickly with public service reforms and his desire not to repeat the errors of Iraq in Libya.

Mr Cameron's admiration for Mr Blair is mainly kept private. Rehearsing Tory lines for the next general election, he told Ed Miliband at Prime Minister's Questions last December: "I would rather be a child of Thatcher than a son of Brown."