The party leadership appears to have genuinely listened during the Built to Last roadshows and the Built to Last document has been amended as a result (new document here). There’s now mention of more "streaming and setting" in schools, the creation of a "unified border police", the appointment of a homeland security minister, a British Bill of Rights and a promise to scrap Labour’s ID card scheme and regional assemblies. These amendments are welcome and I shall certainly vote for B2L when I get the chance. I expect the vote will be 90%+ in favour but on a very low turnout.
The two big disappointments in Built to Last come in what is missing: an adequate section on immigration and a commitment to reduce tax.
Michael Brown – writing in today’s Independent – fears that the timidity on tax is politically dangerous:
"The tax cuts question remains the rock on which Mr Cameron’s leadership will be judged, and by more than just right-wingers. Several Tories have pointed out that the gains in the May elections, especially in London, were greatest where Tories promised to cut council spending and reduce council tax. Why, they ask, if the formula is so successfully locally, is it deemed so unappealing by Mr Cameron’s focus groups nationally? Bromley was a classic example. In May the Tories stormed to victory in the town hall, but the more equivocal message, during the parliamentary by election a month later, led to a meltdown in the Tory majority."
A leader in The Telegraph meanwhile notes that there is "barely a word on immigration and asylum". The leader continues:
a time when the Labour Home Secretary is calling for a national debate
on immigration, is it wise to ignore an issue that the Tories should
make their own? Mr Cameron argues that he has no intention of going
soft on the subject, but is simply trying to alter the focus so that it
does not crowd out other policy areas."
are some Tory modernisers who want to get rid of the party’s core
messages altogether but they are few in number. A more influential and
bigger group wants to stop talking about the core issues for a couple
of years. The problem with the second tactic is that the electorate do
want to know how the party will control the nation’s borders and
relieve the burden of tax. Not talking about these issues until nearer
the election risks two things: (1) accusations of a change of strategy
when the party starts addressing the topics again and (2) the
electorate won’t be persuaded of the detail of the policy ideas if we
attempt to fatten the pig on market day (hat tip to Lynton Crosby).
David Cameron is 100% right to give the party a gentler, greener
image on fighting poverty and reducing pollution – we’ll never win back
voters from the LibDems if we do not. What the party also must do,
however – in order to be credible in the eyes of the electorate – is
stay faithful to the things that energise the strivers and other core
voters. If David Cameron is unwilling to do that himself he needs to
give David Davis, for example, the green light to do it as his proxy.