There has been no panic inside Team Cameron but the latest opinion polls have been disappointing and an increasing number of MPs have been registering unhappiness at the lack of ‘red meat’. Over the last week we have seen the response. There have been no screeching u-turns but there has been a marked shift of emphasis. There has been the extra grit that David Cameron promised on the anniversary of his election.
First came the back to basics message on education and then came David Cameron’s unequivocal support for Iain Duncan Smith’s findings on marriage. The Tory leader’s position on marriage isn’t just important in its own right but also because it communicates a sense of belief. There’ll be plenty of voters who probably won’t agree with David Cameron on marriage but will respect him for telling it as he really sees it. Too many of David Cameron’s previous statements have looked heavily focus grouped.
Yesterday we saw two more reassuring statements. First came a warning to Labour that the deal on extra state funding could be at risk if Tony Blair isn’t willing to cap union funding. This must be a dealbreaker for Labour and a possible sign that the Tories are willing to walk away from the whole idea of extra state funding. That’ll be essential if the Tories aren’t going to appear the new party of Britain’s tired establishment. The Conservative leader also used his press conference for some tough talking on tax (see video below). There were no big new promises but, as with Monday’s Mail interview, there was talk of people having been "clobbered" in Gordon Brown’s "massively overtaxed" Britain and he communicated a sense that he really did intend to share the proceeds of growth between tax relief and extra spending.
The Conservative leader can, of course, argue that nothing he is saying now is inconsistent with what he has said since first standing for the party leadership and he would be right. But, make no mistake, the emphasis is beginning to shift and not a moment too soon. There is no sign that he is abandoning his very welcome greener, gentler agenda but he is showing signs that he won’t just be camped out on the centre ground but his will be a bigger tent, with room for centre-right views, too.
Don’t miss ConservativeHome tomorrow and our twelve step recommendations for making Year Two of Project Cameron a success.