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Page last updated at 15:08 GMT, Friday, 26 September 2008 16:08 UK

Next Stop Downing Street?

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One would be voter questions David Cameron over the make-up of his shadow cabinet

He has transformed the Conservative party from unelectable and out of touch to runaway leaders in the race to be the next government.

But can David Cameron convince the electorate he understands modern Britain?

In Next Stop Downing Street? the BBC's political editor, Nick Robinson, takes Mr Cameron to Birmingham - where the Conservative party is holding its annual conference - to meet some undecided voters.

His challenge is to persuade them that he has what it takes to be prime minister.

Mr Cameron was the surprise victor in the Conservative party leadership election in 2005. He swiftly began the task of repositioning a party - which had lost three consecutive general elections on the bounce - as an electable proposition.

Similar journey

The Conservative Party has scored well in recent local and by-elections but concerns over lack of detailed policies and whether Mr Cameron has the necessary political clout have lingered.

David Cameron in radio studio
Mr Cameron was surprised by a community radio DJ's views

A recent poll dubbed him "likeable but lightweight".

Taking its lead from a 1994 Panorama film Blair's Britain - in which Panorama took the-then leader of the opposition, Tony Blair, to meet voters in Southampton - Nick Robinson took David Cameron on a similar journey.

A journey which Mr Cameron hopes will end in similar fashion to Mr Blair's - as prime minister.

Throughout Next Stop Downing Street? Mr Cameron was challenged by Panorama's group of voters to state clearly where he stands on helping the UK's small businesses, the National Health Service, youth discipline, taxes and the environment.

'Broken society'

Mr Cameron has spoken many times of his desire to mend what he calls the UK's "broken society" - a toxic mix of crime, drug and alcohol abuse and family breakdown.

He got a taste of this society when he met Geraldine Dowling on the Wyreley Birch estate in Birmingham.

In 2007 the estate was rated in the top one per cent of the country for unemployment, low income and ill-health.

She took Mr Cameron to task over his calls for a tax break for married couples but was unconvinced by his answers.

Mr Cameron himself is acutely aware that his privileged background - he is the first Conservative leader to attend Eton public school since Alec Douglas-Home in 1964 - may damage him with certain parts of the electorate.

'Undoubtedly charmed'

His defence though is robust: "I don't believe the Tories stand for the rich or Labour stand for the poor, or I don't believe in a sort of a class-ridden country. I just think that is rubbish."

The increasing unpopularity of an 11-year-old Labour government means Mr Cameron's on course for Downing Street.

While making the film Mr Cameron undoubtedly charmed the Panorama group of voters but did not convince them all he will deliver the policies they want if he becomes prime minister.

Convincing the wider electorate may prove even tougher, but Mr Cameron clearly believes he has what it takes.

Panorama: Next Stop Downing Street? Monday 29 September on BBC One at 8.30pm



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Panorama: Next Stop Downing Street?



SEE ALSO
Dave Cameron's Incredible Journey
20 Dec 07 |  UK Politics
Archive: Blair's Britain
24 Sep 08 |  Panorama

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