Webcameron just whips up oxygen of publicity

There has been one overriding theme during this year's party conference season - not who should be the rightful leader of each of the main factions, but whether they represent substance over spin.

There has been one overriding theme during this year's party conference season - not who should be the rightful leader of each of the main factions, but whether they represent substance over spin.

The Liberal Democrats' elder statesman kicked things off in Brighton two weeks ago when he repeatedly used the S word to bolster his leadership efforts.

That was followed by the Chancellor Gordon Brown, who was eager to employ the word in Manchester to show he'll be nothing like Tony Blair when he takes over as Prime Minister. And, as the nation's political eyes turn to Bournemouth, it is now the turn of David Cameron.

Ten months after taking over the Conservative leadership, Mr Cameron has desperately sought to transform the party from one held back by its past to one looking forward to its future.

He's put a windmill on his roof, he cycles to work and he hugs hoodies.

He feels for the nation like no other politician, with the exception of a younger Tony Blair, and understands the issues that affect you the most. He's changed the party logo from a torch to an oak tree and even started webcamming from his kitchen to show that only he - out of the three party leaders - knows what it is to be young and win over the disaffected text-generation.

Everything this 39-year-old has done is aimed at showing the Conservatives have changed and learned the lessons of the past.

Are they carefully crafted publicity stunts from a master PR man? Of course.

But just as their use has largely succeeded in convincing people the Tories are a different political animal from a decade ago, so they have also exposed the dearth of policies at the hub of the Cameron machine.

The few announcements the leader has made have backfired spectacularly. Mr Cameron shelved his pre-election commitment to pull out of the European People's Party, his proposal for a Bill of Rights was condemned as "xenophobic nonsense", his A-list was given an F by the grassroots and his refusal to back tax cuts or ever mention immigration has infuriated right-wingers in the party.

Unlike the oak tree, the Cameron experiment has put down few roots, opting instead for a shallow but broad appeal to the British voting public.

Mr Cameron will be wanting this party conference to change all that.

But one only has to look around the conference centre itself to see walls everywhere adorned with the latest Tory logo - the crayon scrawl of an oak tree surrounded by pictures of leaves, blue skies and mature trees.

No longer do Conservatives hold the torch of liberty. Instead they've opted for fresh air.

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