Suggested next steps for the Conservatives are the focus of the main leader in today’s Telegraph.
The leader begins by noting that the overall Tory position is strong:
"The Conservative Party has registered a lead over Labour in 25 out of 27 opinion polls, with a margin ranging from three points to 13. In all but four of these polls, the Tories scored 40% or more; the most recent survey, by YouGov last Sunday, put them at 43%, 10 points ahead of Labour, enough to command an overall Commons majority of more than 40 seats."
The Telegraph also praises David Cameron for "outwitting" Gordon Brown at yesterday’s PMQs – during their clashes over Northern Rock. The mood at last night’s parliamentary party dinner was said to be "buoyant" and spirits were certainly helped by "hilarious speeches" from William Hague and Keith Simpson. But complacency, The Telegraph warns, would be "suicidal". The party has been at its best when it has been most radical. The Telegraph highlights George Osborne’s inheritance tax cut and also the welfare reforms that stemmed from Iain Duncan Smith’s social justice policy group. Here’s what The Telegraph thinks the Tories should do next:
Firstly, it urges "dropping the inhibiting commitment to maintaining Labour’s spending plans". Three cheers to that! ConservativeHome recommended the very same thing on Monday. Labour has mounted the largest-ever peacetime increase in spending and George Osborne has pledged that it will continue. By moderating annual spending growth from 2% to 1.5% Mr Osborne would have approximately £3bn more each year to devote to lower borrowing or economy-boosting tax relief. At Monday’s press conference Mr Cameron defended the spending me-tooism by saying that the spending settlement for the public sector was already tight enough. But the settlement is far tighter for many hard-working families and businesses. Over at CentreRight.com Matthew Elliott noted that "by 2009, each person working in the private sector will be paying more each month into the pension of a civil servant than they will into their own pension". That’s an extraordinary statistic. Slower spending growth will give a Conservative Chancellor more freedom to ensure a fairer deal for the private business and private citizen.
Secondly, it calls for boldness in reform of the Whitehall machine. The Telegraph notes that Whitehall is "now failing to meet even the most basic standards of governing competence." Some Tories blame ministers for the incompetence but the problems go deeper. Excessive centralisation and politically correct theories mean that the civil service is not the Rolls Royce operation that Tory ex-ministers remember. We looked at one angle of this challenge last week in our implementation, implementation, implementation post.
Thirdly it calls for more hunger for power: "There remains a nagging perception that many Tories have yet to display it." That perception will persist so long as so many members of the shadow cabinet pursue such extensive outside interests. There is little doubt that David Cameron and George Osborne, in particular, are working flat out for victory. The same cannot be said of every member of the shadow cabinet.