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It's the economy stupid: Tory members see recovery as the key to majority

By Tim Montgomerie
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Over the last few days we've been examining the potency of 23 ideas to win the next election. 1,419 Tory members rated the various ideas and so far we've learnt that members are lukewarm about changing the party leader and very positive about the need for a blue collar message.

Completely unsurprisingly the factor that was rated most important to Tory election prospects was "signs of an economic recovery". That option got a score of +4.16*.

Will we get those signs though? Is the worst of the recession over or will years of continuing austerity and the unresolved €uro situation mean that the economy will remain stuck in stagnation?

In today's Mail on Sunday James Forsyth reports that David Cameron has made economic growth policies his number one priority. In yesterday's Daily Mail I urged David Cameron to use his summer holiday to prepare a ten year emergency growth plan. If he didn't, I worried about the electoral consequences:

"If he doesn’t change course he is in danger of going down in history as the Tory leader who couldn’t win a majority against the discredited Gordon Brown and gets beaten by the supposedly unelectable Ed Miliband.That would mean the saboteurs who ruined the British economy in the last decade (Ed Balls and Co) would be back in charge of the wrecking ball."

Cameron, I suggested, needed to stop worrying about short-term politics and focus on Britain's long-term needs:

"Terry Leahy, the genius behind the phenomenal growth of Tesco in the past 20 years, has said that if businesses focus on profits, they risk failing. If, instead, they focus on looking after customers, the bottom line will take care of itself. That is a philosophy Cameron should follow. He needs to rise above his squabbling coalition. He must stop the party political point-scoring in the Commons. He must become the nation’s Prime Minister, much more than the leader of a political party. He must set out a plan to rebuild Britain. He should use the Tory Conference this autumn to announce the boldest economic reconstruction plan our country has seen in at least a generation."

I then listed what that plan might include:

  1. a world class hub airport on the Thames Estuary;
  2. a comprehensive simplification of our ludicrously complicated tax system;
  3. higher pay for science, maths and language teachers to help every child reach world-class standards by 2025;
  4. new strike laws so essential public services can never again be hijacked by small minorities of militant union members;
  5. a renegotiation of our membership of the EU followed by an In/Out referendum in which the British people could reject membership if the economic deal wasn't good enough.

That is the beginning of a list, not the end. Others (eg here and here) have suggested other reforms. Many individual components of this plan might be unpopular but the paradox of such a bold plan is that it may well add up to something bigger and more compelling than its component parts. Finally the nation would have a politician that was facing up to the challenges of our time. Cameron could say that any parts of the plan supported by the Liberal Democrats could start being implemented immediately. Parts opposed by the Liberal Democrats would have to wait until the British people elected a majority Tory government. My conclusion:

"Will this plan deliver victory for the Conservatives? Perhaps not. The nation may shirk from such an ambitious rescue plan, but at least every Conservative will know that their party had lost fighting for something that was worthwhile and that they had told the truth about Britain’s economic predicament."


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