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The Contract with Britain is a great idea

Nick Wood's High Noon column.

Screen shot 2010-04-30 at 13.50.14 Last night's debate established one clear point. David Cameron and the Conservatives are now firmly in the lead as the race for Downing Street approaches the home straight. Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems are lying second, a little way back, and a tiring Gordon Brown is bringing up the rear.

Cameron boxed clever in Birmingham, moving quickly and throwing and landing more punches than his rivals. His most effective line was to remind a bruised and battered Brown that he had reduced the country to a desperate mess.

Labour's chances of winning the most votes and securing the most seats now look slim. They are heading for third place on share of the vote and a poor second in seats.

But there is still a week to go. Time still for events to intervene. Expect more recriminations in Labour ranks over the weekend and more trouble in the Sunday papers as it dawns on the Labour leadership that they are heading for defeat.

Right now the strongest reason for voting Conservative is a negative: Cameron is not Brown. That has long been the main source of Cameron's political strength. But as polling day nears, he needs to ensure that the public go to the ballot box with a few big but simple reasons for switching to the Tories. They need to know why they are backing Cameron.

That's why his Contract with Britain is essential.

People won't vote for a Big Society. But they will vote for concrete policies that bring the Tory manifesto to life.

They will vote for immediate action to tackle the nation's debt, scrapping the new tax on jobs, a cap on immigration, support for families through a tax break, and a schools revolution designed to put parents first.

Cameron's challenge is to pull well clear of Clegg and Brown and to secure a poll rating in the high 30s, enough to give him a modest overall majority. His victory in the debate will help but he still needs to define the change the country so badly needs.

Nick Wood


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