Last night ConservativeHome received a briefing on Tory thinking on the current crisis and next steps.
The main message that the strategist wanted to communicate was that the Tory leadership was unfazed by recent events. David Cameron's great quality is coolness under fire, we were told. He didn't panic during Brown's 2007 honeymoon and there is no panic now. Only resolution.
Team Cameron readily concede that Brown has enjoyed a good few days. They expect the Conservatives' poll lead to drop into single figures in the next month or so. They expect to lose the Conservative lead on economic competence but expect it to be restored by the new year.
The Tories are not worried about being largely out of the news. They have decided it's largely impossible to compete for serious airtime with Government at this time. They note that frenetic activity by Vince Cable is doing nothing to reverse the LibDems' slide in the polls.
The Tory leadership hopes and expects the recapitalisation package to succeed in stabilising the banking sector. But the leadership does not expect that Brown will win any long-term credit for any of this. Brown, we were told, will soon have seen to have saved the banks but not averted recession and there aren't many votes in that. They are cataloguing evidences of Labour "triumphalism" at recent events for later use.
And this is the key: The Tories are going to present themselves as the people to rescue the "real economy". They are convinced that Brown will not connect with voters who start losing their homes and jobs next year. "He is incapable of empathy".
There is a debate as to how radical the Tories' "real economy plan" needs to be. George Osborne yesterday wrote about "Conservative plans to freeze council tax, abandon the new car tax, keep businesses facing bankruptcy afloat and help low income families with heating bills could all be put in place in the coming months." 'Hares' around the Tory leadership believe that this list is far too modest for the severity of the looming recession. They believe that the crisis gives the party complete freedom to revisit every aspect of Tory economic policy and they hope for much more radical action. The 'tortoises' favour a wait-and-see approach. They want to see how the economy is faring in 2009 and make a decision then about economic policies. They don't want to be boxed in by "rash announcements" now.
Although the Conservatives are ready for a spring 2009 election they don't expect one. Brown has an extraordinary faith in his abilities as Prime Minister. The last fortnight has reinforced that belief. He'll hold on to his office for as long as he can.