By Tim Montgomerie
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Back from his overseas trip (for which the Prime Minister made an excellent defence in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph) David Cameron will today launch the Conservative Party's local election campaign. His key message is the one at the top of this post:
"If you look at what Labour did to our country why on Earth would you let them anywhere near your council?"
A very, very good question.
Speaking in Derbyshire Mr Cameron will say that Tory councils provide better value for money than wasteful Labour councils.
"'Which party runs the best-value councils in the country? Which party has the lowest average council tax on a typical Band D home? Which party is leading the way on freezing council tax again in most places this year – when it doubled under Labour? Yes, the Conservatives. All the Labour councils remain trapped in their old wasteful ways. For instance Sunderland spent £113,000 on lobbyists, Lambeth spent almost £30,000 on a sculpture called 'Foxes and Cherries', and Camden spent almost £200,000 on seven trade union activists. We used to say: 'Labour wastes your money and puts up your taxes'. With their candidate for London Mayor we can say: 'Labour wastes your money and they won't even pay their taxes'."
Mr Cameron will also use the speech to say that the Government has helped every person in Britain during these difficult times. And, aware of the accusation that he doesn't understand low-paid Britain, his remarks focus on the "strivers" and "battlers":
"Every single person you meet has a reason to vote Conservative. The worker no longer paying income tax – because we're putting up the personal allowance, soon to almost £10,000. The pensioner getting the biggest-ever cash rise in the state pension – that's right, an increase of £5.30 a week, that started this month. The entrepreneur boosted by cuts in corporation tax – soon to be 22 per cent, the lowest in the G7. The homeowner saving money on their mortgage – thanks to low interest rates. The 24 million households are better off – thanks to changes we've brought in. To all of those people we must say this: There's only one box in which to put your cross on May the 3rd, and that is for the party that cares about the strivers, the battlers, the family-raisers, the community-builders – the Conservative Party."
More of this focus please, Mr Cameron. See my blog today on reintroducing the 10p tax band.
These won't be easy local elections for the Conservatives. When these elections were fought four years ago we were well ahead of Labour in the polls. This time Labour enjoy a lead in all opinion polls and are campaigning hard on the NHS Bill (a sensible tactic in my view). Ed Miliband's party should pick up at least 700 seats if he's even close to being on track for victory. The Conservatives are hopeful of pick-ups from the Liberal Democrats, however, who are struggling to even field candidates. That's a big contrast to the Conservative Party – we are standing in a record number of English wards. Last year we had good local election results – flattered by Tory voters turning out in droves to reject AV. These elections are going to be harder but Cameron is articulating a good message – as is Andrew R T Davies, our leader in Wales and Rob Halfon MP on our Comment pages today.
> On the Local government blog today: Ed Miliband's local council spends £186,877 on union officials