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David Cameron: from 'brightest boy' to PM

By Anna Doble

Updated on 11 May 2010

If the last few days have seemed protracted and complex, David Cameron's route from prep school to Number 10 has been anything but. Here is a closer look at the Tory leader's rise to claim Britain's top job.

David Cameron is Britain's new prime minister. (Credit: Getty)

As Tony Blair popped the champagne corks following Labour's landslide victory in 1997, the defeat of a young Tory in Stafford slipped by unnoticed.

But the loser that day was David Cameron.

Thirteen years later the rookie candidate has crossed the threshold of Number 10 to become the UK's first Conservative prime minster since John Major.

Like Blair on that bright May morning, Cameron, the eighth post-war Tory prime minister, comes with the bounce of youth. At 43 he is the same age Blair was and similarly brings with him a young family. A Downing Street baby is due in the autumn.

'One of the brightest boys'
Born in 1966, Cameron went to independent Heatherdown prep school in Berkshire where former headteacher Chris Black described him as one of the "brightest" boys.

He said:"I still have my mark orders from 1976 when David Cameron was in my class.

"These clearly show that he was one of the top performers."

Black has also unearthed images of Cameron starring opposite school contemporary Prince Edward in productions of Toad of Toad Hall and The Boy David.

Cameron then attended Eton College, which has produced 18 previous British prime ministers.

(David Cameron's school marks put him in second at Heatherdown prep - Photo: Chris Black)

Cameron's march into politics continued when he won a place at Oxford reading politics, philosophy and economics. He was a member of the university's notorious Bullingdon Club alongside George Osborne and Boris Johnson but was not, at that stage, overtly political.

After graduating, however, Cameron joined the Conservative research department where he became special adviser to then-chancellor Norman Lamont and later worked for Michael Howard.

Cameron will be familiar with Downing Street's layout, he first worked there as an adviser to John Major. He was picked to "sharpen up" the former PM in the run-up to the 1992 Tory election victory.

Major returned the favour when Cameron deployed him to help steer the process of negotiating a power-share with the Liberal Democrats.

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The son of a stockbroker, Cameron gained much-needed business savvy of his own during a seven-year spell at Carlton Communications.

After the 1997 defeat, Cameron was selected as prospective candidate for Witney in Oxfordshire. He won the seat at the 2001 general election and became party leader within four years, beating David Davis, Liam Fox and Kenneth Clarke to the top job.

Research by Cracroft's Peerage shows that Cameron is the most aristocratic prime minister since Alec Douglas-Home in the sixties. Both Cameron and his wife Samantha can trace family lines back to royalty.

David and Samantha will add another branch to the family tree in September when their fourth child is due. Their disabled son Ivan died in 2009. Nancy, 6, and four-year-old Arthur are the godchildren of close family friend George Osborne.

(David Cameron appears in a school play at Heatherdown prep - Photo: Chris Black)

Cameron's mission to modernise the Tories has focused on a gradual move towards "compassionate conservatism" and the fixing of so-called "broken Britain".

In 2006, this philosophy led to Mr Cameron facing ridicule over his plan to "hug a hoodie" in order to tackle antisocial behaviour and street crime.

But the doctrine, while not forming "Cameronism" as such, did lead to his most famous quote: "There is such a thing as society. It's just not the same thing as the state."

It is rumoured his wife Samantha Cameron gifted him the line, which inverted Margaret Thatcher's claim that "there is no such thing as society".

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- Cameron: 'We can fix broken Britain'
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Cameron's alliance with George Osborne, both professional and personal, has been at the heart of the Tory revival since the late 2000s, which brought the party nearly 100 extra MPs on 6 May.

And it is their handling of the economic recovery which will define their early days in government.

The Tories have pledged to begin tackling the UK's huge deficit this year which Labour warned could run the risk of a return to recession. Most analysts believe this can only begin via drastic public spending cuts and tax rises.

The Tory manifesto set out plans to save money through efficiency cuts.

At the launch of the Tory manifesto on 13 April, Cameron said: "Yes, there will be cuts.

(David Cameron addresses supporters at Westminster on 6 April - Reuters)

"Not just in government spending - everybody knows about that - but in the number of MPs and ministers' pay, in corporation tax to get our country moving again."

Cameron and Osborne have also pledged to reverse a planned national insurance (NI) rise. Shortly before the election they received the backing of hundreds of business leaders.

On immigration, the Tories intend to set an annual limit for immigrants from outside the EU.

Cameron must also try to implement his "Big Society" vision, handing power back to communities and reversing what he called Labour's "top-down" approach to government.

With the economy still fragile and the nature of his final scrabble to Number 10, Cameron begins his premiership a world away from Blair's 1997 "blank cheque", and with much to ponder.

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