Is he now facing up to to reality of what lies ahead?
This evening I attended (that’s me in the blue shirt in the second row) a Cameron Direct town hall meeting in Bedford when the Tory leader fielded questions that hadn’t been submitted in advance from an audience which I guessed was less than 50% Conservative.
This is all part of the by-election campaign that’s going on for the town’s elected mayor where his party is holding an open primary next week to select the candidate. You can watch the entire session here.
Several things stood out. There was very little in terms of attacks on Brown and where he did criticise it was in a low-key way. This wasn’t the knockabout Cameron that we know from PMQs.
He didn’t try to please the crowd. Maybe he is very mindful that he’s likely to become PM in the next nine months but there was nothing there to get the easy applause. Where tough things had to be said he said them. He didn’t tone down his view on issues like the need to continue the overseas aid budget – something that would have been quite easy to do.
He was much less personable than I was expecting. There wasn’t much humour and for most of the 55 minutes he was deadly serious. His only really weak answer came to a questioner who was moaning about bus service. You got the feeling that this was not something of which he had much experience.
Overall an impressive performance especially as this was all off the cuff. He has become a serious politician for serious times and is going to be very hard to compete against in a general election campaign.