Conservative Diary

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Should Conservatives be worried about the opinion polls?

There is a softening of our support. We are now below 40% in most polls. I suspect the post-Lisbon policy was key. Less important was the substance of the issue (Europe). More important was the unfair perception that Cameron broke a promise (Trust). The Daily Mail hammered Cameron very hard on this. Cameron appears more like 'another politician' than he did before the new Europe policy.  Satisfaction among Tory members is markedly down.

There is no need to worry at this stage. We are still solidly ahead. Brown is still stuck in the 20s.  The fundamentals are also on our side. The Conservative Party has more money, more activists and a better campaign machine. And for the reasons outlined recently on Platform, the seat projection models may be overstating the mountain the party has to climb. It's perfectly possible that anti-Labour tactical voting will produce a much larger Cameron majority with a similar Tory lead than suggested by existing projection models.

There is plenty that should worry Labour in the months ahead. Higher VAT is about to come into force. Other taxes also need to rise.  Unemployment will continue to increase.

It would be wrong to blame George Osborne's austerity message for the softening as some party strategists are doing. The fact is is that we haven't been honest and open enough with voters.  We haven't told voters even 10% of an explanation of how we'll cure the deficit.  Fears have filled the vacuum.  Three-quarters of Tory members are expecting huge tax rises.  We don't need an exhaustive list of measures but we need more honesty on overall intentions.  I've called it a TV moment when Cameron looks into the camera and tells people very clearly how he'll cure the deficit.  We need to be honest about tax rises but time limit them as emergency measures.

I remain confident that Cameron is a significant electoral asset. He'll best Brown in the election campaign.  Time for a change is a potent slogan. What we are currently lacking are enough concrete reasons for people to vote Conservative.  We need to make a better case for how people will benefit from a Conservative government.  The balance isn't quite right at the moment.  There's too much 'new Toryism' and not enough on crime and immigration, for example.  The Tories should not wait until the General Election campaign to launch the manifesto but should launch it on Monday 4th January and use the following months to explain how life will be better with David Cameron in Downing Street.  Let The Sun, Mail, Express and internet do the negative stuff on Labour.

Tim Montgomerie


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