Robert Halfon is Conservative MP for Harlow. Follow Rob on Twitter.
What are four words that best sum the Tory-led Government? Labour would have the public believe it is 'grannies', charities, 'pasties' and 'millionaires'. But, Conservatives don't need to let the left's narrative become the story. There is a very powerful message to communicate, centred around Aspiration, Opportunity, Community and Fairness.
Take Aspiration: Want to own your council home? Then you will get a £75,000 discount. Want to start up a micro business in your rented social housing? Now you can do it. Want to work and get out of the poverty trap – rather than stay on benefits? Receive the universal credit combined with the raising of income tax thresholds.
Take Opportunity: Want better local schools and hospitals? Academies and Free Schools with tougher curriculum will raise standards. Choose the GPs and Hospitals you prefer, unconstrained by the bureaucracies of the PCTs and Strategic Health Authorities. Want more skills? Go for one of the 400,000 apprenticeship places on offer, the Youth Contract, or even the Work Programme.
Take Community: You may not understand the Big Society but probably support its components: building social capital, people power and backing social entrepreneurs. Want people power? Then elect your own Police Commissioners. Have democratic say over planning, have a referendum on excessive council tax. Want to support social entrepreneurs? Then welcome the support for mutuals and co-operatives and the establishment of the Big Society Bank.
Take Fairness: Want a fair deal for pensioners? Well you have the winter fuel allowance, cold weather payments and triple lock giving the highest pension increase in history. Want fairness on benefits? Cap payouts at £26,000 per annum, whilst ensuring that the genuinely vulnerable are protected with generous increases. Want a fair deal on immigration? Drastically cut immigration numbers, strengthen border police and deal with dodgy student visas and bogus marriages. Want fairer Council Bills? What about an annual freeze in Council Tax.
Of course, not everything in the Rose Garden is perfect. ConservativeHome regularly debates the reasons why. Without doubt there are other policies that many of us would wish for – I have argued strongly on these pages and elsewhere, for more action on cutting fuel duties for example (although at least fuel duty was cut last year). Most Conservatives would welcome stronger action a Bill of Rights and an ever tougher line with the Europan Union.
But, putting our polices as mentioned above, under an umbrella of four simple themes can do wonders for the Tory soul in the run-up to these local elections. Aspiration, Opportunity, Community and Fairness are simple to sell on the doorstep, all the more important given the Labour lie machine is hard at work.