David Cameron grasped with both hands what many saw as a poisoned chalice back in 2005. He became the Conservatives’ leader, their fifth in just nine years, and when the party was still smarting after a third successive election defeat.
But the man from a privileged background, he is an Old Etonian and an Oxford graduate, was determined to change the image of what has often been seen as a party for the wealthy.
One of his first successes was to help support his old Tory friend Boris Johnson to dispatch left-winger Ken Livingstone as Mayor of London.
But he also quickly distanced himself from outdated Conservative policies and embraced issues such as climate change and gay rights.
Through his experience of caring for his severely disabled eldest child, Cameron has also repositioned the Tories as champions of the state-run National Health Service.
“Compassionate Conservatism” became the new mantra among Cameronites.
He has never held a ministerial position and his youth, at 43 he is the youngest British prime minister for almost two centuries, has attracted mutterings of “inexperience.”
But Cameron has learnt at first hand about the cut and thrust of politics, giving a good account of himself at the often gladiatorial confrontations in the House of Commons. And he will need all his skills now if he is to keep together what some have described as an unlikely alliance with the Liberal Democrats.
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