James Forsyth is the online editor of The Spectator and The Business. He blogs regularly for the Spectator’s Coffee House blog as well as writing for both magazines. This is the fourth contribution to ConservativeHome’s What David Cameron Should Do Next series.
David Cameron needs to move from persuading people to listen to the Conservatives, to getting them to vote for the Conservatives. Decontaminating the brand was necessary but the exercise has gone on too long and helped foster an impression of Cameron as nothing more than a PR man. Cameron now needs to start rolling out substantive reasons to want the party to form the next government: a start would be to make clear how the tax burden will be shifted from work to waste.
The leadership also needs to manage the party far better than it has to date. Quentin Davis might be an arrogant bore with an inflated sense of his own importance, but if some attention was all that was needed to prevent him from defecting to Labour he should have been given it. Equally, the Cameroons need to show that they understand that not everyone who criticises them is a dinosaur or a glory hunter. And for goodness sake, stop sending Cameron on the Today programme to bash his internal critics. It makes him look–in equal parts–thin-skinned, arrogant and weak and guarantees that any ‘Tory splits’ story rumbles on far longer than it otherwise would.
Cameron, however, must stand up to entrenched lobbies in the party when the national, and thus party, interest demands it. So in his conference speech, Cameron should make clear that as a party of aspiration the Conservatives support building more houses and extending home ownership. Gordon Brown is determined to steal the cause of property owning democracy away from the Conservatives; it would be a disaster for them if they aided and abetted him in this scheme.
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