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Policy won't win us power, admits Oliver Letwin, but it will determine whether we're successful in government

LETWIN OLIVER official Oliver Letwin has been an enormous influence on Project Cameron.  The first of Michael Howard's shadow cabinet to back David Cameron for the Tory leadership he has played a pivotal role in setting the party's strategic direction.  Caution on tax, an emphasis on climate change, social justice and 'not banging on about Europe' all have Letwin's fingerprints all over them.

Noone works more closely with David Cameron's number one adviser, Steve Hilton.

Mr Letwin is just one of two shadow cabinet ministers to sit in David Cameron's leadership suite - the other being George Osborne.

Mr Letwin - now directing policy for the Conservative Party - has told today's Daily Politics show on BBC1 that it's very unlikely that an ordinary voter would be able to name even one of his party's policies:

DAILY POLITICS REPORTER ROSS HAWKINS : "Which of your individual policies do you think that somebody who isn't involved in politics is going to know? If we went and asked people..."

OLIVER LETWIN <INTERRUPTS>: "Very few. Probably none. My own view is that formulating policies in opposition is a fantastically important thing to do becaue if you get elected they will be the things that actually lead to a successful govt or otherwise. But I don't believe that you fight and win elections primarily on people going to websites and reading every last detail of your policy on x or y. I don't suffer from that delusion."

REPORTER: "So if we went out onto the streets now and asked 200 people if they could name a single Conservative policy and none of them could, that wouldn't worry you?"

LETWIN: "No and I think if you went and asked them the same question about Labour or Liberal policy you'd find the same. Most people are just not very interested in the details of policy."

It is, of course, true that October 2007's inheritance tax policy had a massive impact on Tory fortunes but it's true that most voters don't pay a lot of attention to policy.  As I suggested on Saturday, moderation of style is probably a lot more important than moderation of policy in reassuring the electorate (if reassurance is the goal).

Tim Montgomerie


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