David Cameron has just delivered his end of term address to the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers. The Prime Minister made little news apart from going out of his way to praise Maria Hutchings, making clear he had no truck with efforts to blame her for the party’s poor performance in the Eastleigh by-election. He stuck to the same messages that he had when addressing the parliamentary party the other week, one backbencher left complaining ‘we’ve heard it all before.’
But what should cause some concern Number 10 is how few MPs turned up to hear the Prime Minister. The audience was estimated at between 80 and 100, less than a third of the parliamentary party. Now, there are reasons for this: Cameron addressed the parliamentary party recently and it’s a Monday with no three-line whip until 10pm. But still one would expect a better turn-out for a meeting addressed by the Prime Minister. It is a small, but telling, sign of the distance between Cameron and his backbenchers.