If Cameron was a brand, how would we relaunch him?

You have probably spotted the fact that I am a Tory. It’s been a lifelong attachment to the Conservative Party, apart from a period of less than 24 hours in early 1963.

That’s a story swiftly told: I was at Oxford, and succumbed one drunken night to my friend Karl Hedderwick’s insistence I should follow his true path and support Labour (Karl was actually Karl Friedrich Hedderwick, so his political direction was probably pre-destined). Harold Wilson had just defeated George Brown. He was a shiny new leader, and from Jesus College, like Karl and me, so it did seem an exciting idea that evening to change my allegiance. But I woke up with a dreadful hangover, and as it dissipated, so did my regard for Harold, and I was back in the other Harold’s camp (Macmillan) by lunchtime.

Nearly 50 years later, I am worried about David Cameron. He started so well. He was impressive in that he seemed to take the whole coalition business in his stride. What is rather disturbing is the revelation in The Times this morning that he knew all along that he was not going to win an overall majority (Cameron: Practically a Conservative, by Francis Elliott and James Hanning, to be published this week by Fourth Estate). So that Rose Garden performance was rather less spontaneous than they would have had us believe.

Cameron has also been commendably consistent on the economy, and the need to be fiscally disciplined. But for the rest, there are more questions than answers, more Nos and Maybes than Yeses, and more criticisms than plaudits. Here’s why I am worried:

• Where are the stars in his ministerial team? This is a first term for goodness sake
• Has the whole coalition business been a dreadful compromise? Have the sacrifices to Lib Dem policy and sensitivities robbed this Government of any discernible Conservative rigour?
• Does it make sense to have Cable as Business Secretary? It was an appointment as bizarre as Huehne’s as Energy and Climate Change Secretary
• Is Cameron credible as a statesman in Europe?
• Is Hague the right man to be Foreign Secretary?
• Is Justine Greening credible at Transport?
• I could go on around the Cabinet table. Harsh, but I think true

When the coalition was born, I admit to having been quite pleased. I felt the alliance might make the Government more popular for being broadly-based. I also felt it would make life very difficult indeed for Labour, particularly when they chose a slightly odd leader in Miliband.

But the Government isn’t popular. Conservatives and Lib Dems were mauled in the May local elections – with the exception of the redoubtable and fearless Boris. It doesn’t need Labour to wrong foot the coalition. The so-called allies scarcely make the effort to look united any more.

And the mistakes: Carriers without aircraft, Granny Tax, Pasty Tax, Charity Tax, cutting the 50p level, is HST vital or dispensable? A long-running PR nightmare about the NHS. The list is endless.

Now Cameron is facing highly unpredictable consequences from a Greek nightmare that is absolutely not his – or our – fault. He has the tricky dilemma about stimulating growth – is it a no-brainer, or high risk? Should he change Employment Law as the Beecroft Report suggests? Will the longed-for summer bring a rerun of the dreaded urban riots? Will the Falklands dispute escalate? Is the British position on Afghanistan sustainable if other NATO members follow Socialist France into precipitate withdrawal? And all this before we look at the possibly disastrous consequences of being seen to have been too close to the ongoing News Corp debacle.

The Cameron brand faces challenge and problems on every side. It may not be a full relaunch he needs. But surely strategic change and fresh presentation would help. If the account went to pitch, I am sure that at least one agency would recommend a full throttle Tory strategy. Hard to see how slavish loyalty to Clegg and co is going to pay off. The Lib Dems are electorally damaged, and they have too much influence over Government policy. Surely that has to change for a start. Is it too simpliste to point out that Boris has bucked the trend by not compromising, and being his own man?