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Last Updated: Friday, 4 November 2005, 01:59 GMT
Examining David vs David

By Nick Assinder
Political Correspondent, BBC News website

Watching the two Tory leadership contenders smiling, agreeing and steadfastly refusing to get stuck in to each other is probably not what we had been waiting for.

David Cameron and David Davis

But the two Davids seemed so determined to keep this contest clean and downright reasonable that they were in danger of turning their TV head-to-head into a cure for insomnia.

They both agreed what good chaps they were and how they would work together perfectly well, whoever wins the contest.

David Davis, the former front runner who has seen it all slip away, was delighted at how "talented" his opponent was.

And David Cameron, the young man who has come from nowhere to apparently streak past all comers, even described his challenger as "sweet".

So this was not to be a bare-knuckle fight with blood splattering the studio walls and one man wheeled out on a stretcher.

Perhaps, then, it would reveal major differences between the two in either policy or personality; charisma or charm, to produce some second thoughts on their relative merits.

David Cameron
David Cameron described his challenger as "sweet"

Well, a bit. As the debate progressed some significant differences emerged on issues like Europe, drugs and taxation for example, but they were often a matter of degree or emphasis.

So maybe it would become a Nixon-Kennedy style clash where one man would suddenly transform his chances of victory by the amount he sweated or the depth of his five o'clock shadow. Nope, no luck there either.

Both men could be satisfied that they had set out their stalls, in so far as they were willing to, avoided making any major blunders and shown their mettle in the face of a TV audience.

And it is probably the case that the TV debate had the effect of levelling the field between them a little.

Heated clash

But then, out of the blue, it happened. An issue that had already been touched on in good humour suddenly erupted into a real, heated clash.

And it was over whether or not they should be revealing detailed policies four years ahead of a general election.

With only minutes to go, they must both have realised they were failing to light any fires, so they finally went for it.

David Davis effectively accused his opponent of trying to be the Tories' Tony Blair, full of spin, and rhetoric without substance.

And David Cameron accused Mr Davis of making up policies on a daily basis in a hunt for headlines that would make the party look ridiculous at the time of the next election.

That was more like it. But, sadly that was also the end of it.

David Cameron and David Davis appeared head-to-head in a special edition of Question Time broadcast in the UK on Thursday, 3 November, 2005 on BBC One.


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