Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Is Project Cameron really working?

People always find evidence to support their case one way or another on this issue. Over on politicalbetting.com they'll debate for hours the message of the latest opinion polls. Some show Cameron 10 points ahead and going up, others show him 1 point ahead and going down. I think no one poll should be taken too seriously, but the trend of opinion polls should. Cameron has been the first Tory Leader to lift the party above Blair's Labour ever (bar the 2000 Petrol Crisis). Good news then? Not so, claim yet more cynics - Cameron should have commanding leads such as those Blair enjoyed in the mid 1990s. Personally I'm not so sure. The dynamics of politics has changed and I think the days of the vast poll leads is over. Yes, Cameron can, should and will do better. But moving the party out of the 29-33 box is a great start.

So what of the party policy review? The nay-sayers claim that the Tories are worthless because of their lack of policies. They say the LibDems are stealing marches on us. Hang on, though. Think about this. The Tories have suffered for a decade or more with two problems. Firstly our best ideas are stolen by Labour within a flash of announcing them. And secondly putting out policy too far advance in an election gives our opposition and the media time to pick holes. I think three years prior to a poll is too far to project policy (Sir Ming, take note) and policy u-turns two years down the libe will be crippling. Cameron's task forces are going great work and the pre-finding announcements of the energy task force have, rightly, wrong footed the left.

How about internaal changes to the party? Well, despite its imperfections and my personal opposition, Cameron and Maude got their A List. The people on it may face criticism but few challenge the aim of it. Now we need to ensure that more people who really represent modern Britain - not just disabled people, women and ethnic minorities - get selected. C'mon constituencies - time to do your bit. The party has 25,000 new members since December 2005 (more than Labour and the LibDems put together) and our media machine has certainly sharpened up. True, the doom mongors cite the Bromley by-election and we have much to learn about fighting mid term polls. But I am confident that Cameron is getting to grips with the party.

And latsly are we holding the government to account ... David Davis looks increasingly like a happy man and Prescott is slowly dragging the government down with him. Cameron is getting the better of Blair at PMQs and the frontbench are beocmign more effective. Indeed, Labour themselves are helping us with their botched hand-over plans.

Cameron is getting a lot right - the important stuff, anyway - but has a long way to go. Don't rush the policy review but concentrate on the image, membership, candidate selection, media and organsation of the party in the short term. Put polls behind you and focus on the trends. Have a great party conference and then look forward to 2007 and PM Brown with confidence. I know I am.

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