The last few months have been pretty torrid for David Cameron. It all began with the grammars school row and its lowest point was probably two weeks ago when an opinion poll gave Gordon Brown a 10% lead. Along the way we have had the museums charging row and unexpectedly big defeats in two parliamentary by-elections. A majority of Tory members no longer expect Mr Cameron to be Prime Minister after the next General Election.
But is the worst over for Mr Cameron? There are reasons for hope.
First of all, there is a real possibility that Mr Cameron may soon be able to present himself as ‘comeback Cameron’. The bad opinion polls of recent times are unlikely to get worse. Over the next two weeks four new surveys from the main pollsters are expected. If those polls show an eroded Labour lead the Tories can claim that the momentum is with them and Brown will fear an early election.
Second, there is now much more balance in Project Cameron. The party is talking about immigration again with David Davis taking the lead. George Osborne is signalling that he really means to cut taxes – probably inheritance tax – as and when growth allows. And the party is reasserting its Euroscepticism. William Hague led the referendum push through the summer months and David Cameron has accused Gordon Brown of arrogance over the issue in an article for today’s Sun.
Thirdly, Gordon Brown’s problems are mounting. On Friday we highlighted some of those problems. Biggest of them all are the related challenges of lawlessness and social breakdown. On Thursday ConservativeHome urged the Conservative leader to put crime at the heart of the next General Election campaign. The party has certainly come together over recent days with former leaders Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard joining the current team to ruthlessly expose Labour’s criminal record. At 2pm today David Cameron, David Davis and Nick Herbert will, at a press event, launch: ‘It’s Time to Fight Back – how a Conservative Government would tackle Britain’s crime crisis.’ ConservativeHome will be at that launch and will blog an immediate report.
None of this is to say that the Tories are out of the woods. Beneath the headline opinion polls Gordon Brown enjoys significant leads on such measures as who is trusted to be Prime Minister. I’m also worried about the Goldsmith-Gummer report’s likely endorsement of green taxation. It will probably be necessary to annouce immediate offsetting tax reliefs close to the time of publication. But let’s worry about those issues on another day. There’s a new mettle in the Tory leadership at the moment. It hasn’t arrived a moment too soon.