The Sketch: Hungry Alien will eat the Cameroons alive

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The Independent Online

I must warn David Cameron. But I may already be too late (it takes several surgical operations to get an idea into the Conservative Party these days).

The danger is this. The Prime Minister is a much faster learner than any of his opponents. Underneath the grace, charm and public-school manners, he is the alien in Alien. He mutates at bewildering speed. He is always deadly. He has a raging appetite and several sets of teeth. He has consumed four Conservative leaders in four different ways and he hasn't finished yet.

Now, as readers may be tired of recollecting, I have been urging a rhetorical strategy of malevolent support for the Government. By praising the Prime Minister and supporting his policies, they detach him from lefty backbenchers who loathe Tories even more than they loathe the Prime Minister.

But here's the warning: the PM has already worked out a blistering, not to say annihilating reply to this. What is it? We'll doubtless get a glimpse of his new mutation next Wednesday.

The creature will deploy moral argumentation almost 19th century in its intensity. It will attack Cameron on his own ground, and in his own terms. And it will present a fierce, cogent but flawed exposition of why the Prime Minister hasn't a Tory bone in his body.

If the Cameroons haven't thought one and maybe two steps ahead they will be eaten alive. That's only partially a metaphor. The Tories are still desperately vulnerable - they haven't worked out their values yet, not in a way that they can talk about on the Today programme. What, for instance, is their position on equality? Do they want more of it or less? The party isn't ready for a new leader. What it needs is a philosopher.

Michael Howard made one last attack on the Prime Minister. It was so brilliant that we wondered why it hadn't been used before. He quoted something astonishing the Prime Minister said: "I have taken from my party everything they thought they believed in. I have stripped them of their core beliefs. What keeps it together is power." Are you amazed? I was so amazed I didn't register the PM's reaction. His backbenchers sat there like stunned mullets. "Everything they thought they believed in"? It's hard to gauge the effect of those words.

Why oh why weren't they used more often? But Mr Howard glanced over them to his next question. "The project will only be complete when the Labour Party has learnt to love Peter Mandelson." (Parliamentary delirium.) "Can we have a progress report?" The PM sent a perfectly weighted reply back: "I think that falls under the category of 'much done, much to do'."

You do have to like the taste of sulphur to enjoy Mr Howard fully. How different the Prime Minister's farewell: "On this side of the House, we wish him well."