A year ago the Conservative Spring Forum was in Gateshead. I urged the Tory leader to give a speech that levelled with the British people:
From reports it appears that David Cameron will deliver something close to that speech today, in Cheltenham.
With the considerable exception of the party's opposition to Darling's autumn stimulus (although even that was backed by considerable private polling) the Tories have been very unwilling to get ahead of public opinion on the recession. And let's be clear: This tactic has been an enormous political success. A second YouGov poll put the Tories 18% ahead last night. The collapse of Labour means that it's as certain as anything in politics that David Cameron will be Prime Minister. Political success doesn't mean success for the country, of course. New Labour were an enormous political success but did not succeed as a government.
I have the same concern expressed by Fraser Nelson in today's News of the World. Does David Cameron have a plan to rescue Britain? Fraser writes:
Nigel Lawson writes for The Sunday Telegraph today and reminds us what every conservative knows: the 50p tax "will be economically damaging". The former Chancellor of the Exchequer continues:
Even now, with Labour collapsing, the Conservative leadership appears reluctant to really level with the British people. The 50p issue has become a symbol of this reluctance. Opposition to this sort of tax must feature in a credible Tory recovery plan. We must also become much more honest about public spending. Policy Exchange have
calculated that public spending will rise to more than 50% of GDP next year. This, The Sunday Times tells us, "is
higher than the 49.7% peak reached when Denis Healey had to turn to the
IMF for help in 1976, and underlines the scale of the crisis in the
public finances and the even deeper cuts in spending that will be
needed after the election."
Perhaps the Tories have a secret plan to put Britain right and it will be unveiled shortly after election day when all the votes are safely gathered in? My fear is Fraser's fear. I fear that there is no secret plan. I fear that a Conservative government will do just enough to manage us away from the edge of the cliff but not enough to restore Britain as the enterprise capital of Europe. I'm desperately hoping to be proved wrong and I'm hoping for signs from David Cameron that I am wrong in Cheltenham later today.