Bruce Anderson: Why a leap in the dark is a far better bet than a leap <i>into</i> the dark

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The Independent Online

How different everything looks now. Every time I passed a group of Tory representatives, I seemed to hear the word "Cameron''. When I was recognised as a journalist who sometimes wrote about such matters, people would crowd around me asking if he really was as good as he sounded.

Once, I was sitting near photographers, half-hearing what they were saying. They were talking about Samantha's tattoo: Mrs Cameron has on e on her ankle. A week ago "Samantha'' without a surname might have meant Samantha Fox. Now, and for decades to come, it will refer to Sam Cameron. I hope that the girl is braced for what is about to hit her.

Her husband is. He still has one problem. Some Tory MPs have yet to recover from the shock of discovering that a 38-year-old who has been in Parliament for just over four years is likely to be their next leader. Some of them are wondering where they went wrong.

There is a certain amount of jealousy. But it is diminishing, as the realisation grows that they are about to be led by a remarkable man.

Erwin Steltzer, the American commentator, has been at the trans-Atlantic political ringside for four decades. In recent years, he has not thought much of British Conservative politicians. On Tuesday, that changed. He wrote that David Cameron reminded him of Ronald Reagan's "morning in America'' and of President John Kennedy.

Initially, even I thought this was going too far. But David Cameron is a remarkable mixture of personality, ability, rhetorical power, authority and charm, which have combined in the most potent chemistry. He maybe - no damn it, he will be - the next dominant figure in British politics; a man who can make the weather.

Assuming that he is one of the two Tory MPs who go to the country, he will win. If his opponent is David Davis, he will win easily. If Mr Cameron does not qualify for the country, the country will feel cheated and rebellious. A lot of Tory MPs will be hearing that message this weekend.

As for the David Davis supporters, there is a simple question: when will depression turn into defection? Mr Davis has qualities. He deserves an alpha for ambition and a Pulitzer Prize for plotting.

But a prime minister candidate? That would condemn the Tory Party to four more years of selling the unsellable.

David Cameron is cut from big timber. David Davis is cut from a gnarled thorn bush which Heathcliffe might have come across on the moors around Wuthering Heights. Some Tories are nervous in case a vote for David Cameron would be a leap in the dark. Surely they now realise that a vote for David Davis would be a leap into the dark.

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