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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 December 2005, 20:35 GMT
Cameron's moment of triumph
Sketch
By Brian Wheeler
BBC News political reporter, at the Royal Academy of Art

With its funky background music and minimalist white-walled setting, it felt more like the launch of a new software company than the coronation of a Conservative leader.

Samantha and David Cameron
The Cameron zeppelin hovers above its master

And David Cameron certainly fitted the part of the thrusting young CEO, strolling confidently about the stage, exuding PR sheen.

It was not clear what the precise nature of his product was - but the shareholders certainly seemed to be buying into it.

There was standing room only at the Royal Academy - and his every utterance was met with cheers and rapturous applause.

"If you have a vision for positive politics come and join us," he declared.

"In this modern, compassionate Conservative Party, everyone's invited."

Of course, Mr Cameron got the sort of media coverage most start-ups would kill for - and you suspect even the most sentimental CEO would not have invited his mum along to witness his moment of triumph.

(Mrs Cameron sat beaming throughout, telling the television crews who ambushed her afterwards how "proud" she was of her son and how she always knew he would be Tory leader one day.)

In fact, it was the arrival of Mr Cameron's mother, along with his brother and heavily pregnant wife Samantha, in prominent front row seats, a few minutes before the official announcement that gave the first clue, if any were needed, that this wasn't going to be his rival David Davis's day.

'Civilised'

The two Davids loitered behind the scenes while Michael Howard made a short speech handing over the reins, his "last act as Conservative leader", he told the audience.

Then Sir Michael Spicer, chairman of the backbench 1922 committee, announced the result, in reverse order:

"The votes for David Davis, 64,398. The votes for David Cameron 134..."

He could not get to the end of his sentence before being drowned out by cheers from the Cameron supporters who packed the room.

It was clear that the younger man had won by a margin of two to one.

Mr Davis gave a gracious defeat speech, lauding the "civilised, decent and reasonable way" the contest had been conducted.

Humour

But just as at the party conference which sealed their fate, he gave his address from behind a lectern, while Mr Cameron, when it was his turn to speak, stood just to the right of it.

He fielded the journalists' questions with easy humour and, in another echo of his triumphant party conference performance, was joined on the podium at the end by a beaming Samantha.

There then followed a carefully orchestrated photo opportunity, with Cameron supporters - the sort of young, ethnically diverse group modern political leaders rarely leave home without these days - gathering on a wide stone staircase waving placards.

They passed the time waiting for their new leader to walk among them watching the progress of a silver zeppelin-shaped balloon, which had been launched above their heads.

For a few brief seconds it looked as if this remote-controlled dirigible - advertising the Cameron website - might crash to the ground, or else set off on an uncharted course over the heads of the media corps, handing the sketch writers an early Christmas present.

But like everything else in the Cameron campaign, nothing was being left to chance.

"We thought about the Hindenberg thing. It took a couple of hours of testing," said Dan Ritterbond, a former Saatchi and Saatchi executive aiding the Cameron team.

Celebration

It was just one of the many novel promotional ruses that had been deployed - and would continue to be deployed - on Mr Cameron's behalf, he said, including the distribution of 300,000 free newspapers to rail commuters announcing his victory.

Mr Cameron eventually descended the staircase to be "doorstepped" by the media for the first time as leader, Samantha once again at his side, before heading off to Conservative Central Office to meet his new staff.

There would be a small celebration party later, his aides said.

But he will be certain to keep a clear head for his first prime ministers' questions on Wednesday, when strolling casually across the floor of the commons as he delivers his oration will not be an option.



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