Conservative Diary

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The Tories dip in polls as Cameron sounds an uncertain trumpet

There are two slightly worrying opinion polls overnight. Jonathan reported the Tory lead down to 8% last night and another poll by YouGov has the Tory lead down to 7%.

YouGov Within the detail of the poll there is still plenty for the Tories to work with: 64% are dissatisfied with Mr Brown’s performance and Cameron enjoys a 33% to 23% lead over Brown when it comes to preferred Prime Minister.

If David Cameron is to regain his large lead he needs to make a more positive case for voting Conservative. ConHome's 'Closing the deal' series attempted to set that out earlier in the week. The Tories' number one job must be to frame this election as a choice between a hung parliament and a strong Conservative government. Given that there has not been a single opinion poll that suggests Labour can win outright, voters considering supporting Nick Clegg's party need to know that only a strong Conservative government can deal with the deficit.

But on the deficit Cameron has sown confusion in the last 24 hours. Almost every newspaper (including the FT) has seized on hints he made at Davos that Conservative spending cuts might not be very extensive at first. This is how Peter Oborne reports Mr Cameron's gaffe:  

"On Thursday, Cameron conceded in an interview with the BBC business editor Robert Peston at Davos that making cuts too early could have the effect of jeopardising economic recovery. The truth is that Cameron is significantly more nervous than Osborne about spending cuts. Indeed, his comment didn't go down at all well in his No 2's office because Cameron appeared to be endorsing Labour criticism of the Tory economic policy. And yesterday, making a speech to British businessmen, he widened the fissure with Osborne by insisting the cuts did not have to be 'particularly extensive'."

Spending cuts need to be extensive and immediate. A new government needs to convince the markets that we will get a grip on the budget deficit or we will - as Cameron regularly warns - go the way of Greece. We also need to get the pain out of the way as quickly as possible. Waiting until Years 2 or 3 of any Conservative government to cut spending will harm the chances of re-election.

Tim Montgomerie


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