By Tim Montgomerie
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Last night I listed ten big takeaways from Lord Ashcroft's latest megapoll on the Tory path to a majority.
"Everything the Conservatives do between now and the next election must pass at least one of the following four tests, and it must not fail any of them.
First, does it show we are sticking to the right priorities for the country?
Secondly, does it show strong leadership?
Thirdly, does it show we are on the side of the right people (and, if necessary, make the right enemies?)
Fourthly, does it offer some reassurance about the Conservative Party’s character and motives?
Sticking to the deficit reduction programme passes all four tests. So does welfare reform, provided people can see it helps people towards a better life and protects those who still need help, as well as weeding out scroungers. Well thought-out immigration policy fits too. Even tough European policy, such as last December’s veto, can qualify, though embarking on a time-consuming referendum campaign would so dominate the government’s agenda that it would fail the first test. The NHS reforms, meanwhile, arguably failed all four. Bringing forward proposals for Lords reform was unavoidable because of the coalition agreement, but there is no case for spending any more time on them in this parliament."
I think these are four excellent tests. If adopted they could be an important and constant reminder of the kind of policies that will deliver a Tory majority and those that won't. I note with interest that Michael believes that the NHS reforms failed all four tests.
I can't agree with ConHome's proprietor, however, on the question of an EU referendum. Firstly because it's hard to separate the EU from the issue of the economy and the economy is surely a top priority for the people. The EU also, of course, affects the hot issue of immigration. Second I think we need to consider the downside of not holding a referendum. Voters hate disunited parties and I can't see anything solving the Conservative Party's chronic EU tensions (and our hemorrhage of support to UKIP) other than a referendum. If Cameron walks away from a referendum I think the party will struggle to hold together.