At last night's Carlton Political Dinner over £250,000 was raised for target seats. Tory donors mixed with shadow cabinet ministers and listened to remarks from Simon Woolfson, David Cameron and Boris Johnson.
Speaking confidently, without notes, David Cameron attempted to answer four big questions. My summaries of his answers to his own questions are not verbatim.
Why are we behind in the polls? New Prime Ministers always get a boost. It happened with John Major. But the boost won't last because the facts of politics haven't changed. NHS A&E wards are still under threat. Gun crime has still doubled. Taxes have still soared. Disposable incomes are still under pressure. Five million are not in work. 600,000 more people are in extreme poverty. And Labour aren't competent: We've had the first run on a bank for 100 years and the Foot and Mouth outbreak originated from a government lab.
How are we going to knit our policies together? Until recently people didn't think we had enough policies. Now most critics seem to think we have too many! The policy review process was good. People from outside politics helped us rethink key issues but it's now a time for choosing and in Blackpool next week the key policy priorities of the party will be clear.
What are the party's clear and simple messages? Conservatives want to give people more control over their lives. We want to encourage a new generation of homeowners. We want headteachers to have more control over their schools. We want real choice for patients. Tax is too high and so we will share the proceeds of growth. We will mend Britain's broken society. In the 1970s the problem was irresponsible unions - today it's irresponsible parents. Then it was inflation. Now it's crime. The overall aim is a safer, greener country. Conservatives will tax pollution - not families. Opportunity, Responsibility and Family are the new Conservative watchwords.
Are we ready for a General Election? If Gordon Brown calls it - Yes. We have a £10m fighting fund. We have nearly all candidates selected. Two million newspapers were distributed in target seats last weekend. The choice for Britain is more of the same with Gordon Brown or real change with the Conservatives.
It was a very solid, reasonable performance from a very trim looking Mr Cameron. Ahead of his Blackpool speech I'd advice focus on three As, however:
- Anger: I'd like to see David Cameron get a little angry about what Labour has done to Britain. He shouldn't get personal with Brown - no way - but voters should know that David Cameron has passion.
- Attachment: There weren't any stories last night to bring the message alive. David Cameron needs to know that he is connected with the problems of Britain and with the people who are experiencing those problems.
- Authenticity: The most important of all and related to the other two. David Cameron must make it clear that his leadership isn't a political exercise but a personal mission. By demonstrating a little anger and a lot of attachment he will demonstrate his authenticity.
11.30am: Nadine Dorries MP reports for the Cornerstone blog on David Cameron's pep talk to MPs.