By Tim Montgomerie
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In a speech launching the Welsh Conservatives' local election campaign today the Prime Minister will embrace the unpopularity of recent weeks and say that he has deliberately chosen to avoid the easy path. Instead he will say that he and the Coalition government are taking the tough decisions that will ensure long-term success for the country:
"You can close that Number 10 door behind you and say: this is our chance; our precious chance to change our country and we’re going to seize it. You can hear all those whispering voices saying “play it safe if you want to win a majority” and “don’t rub too many people up the wrong way” and say: “No – that is not us; that is not our party.”"
He will list welfare reform, changes to public pensions, big decisions on infrastructure and spending cuts as signs of this toughness. He'll conclude:
"We are making the hard, long-term decisions that are vital to the future of Britain. We are doing our duty by our country and that has always been the Conservative way."
Personally I'm not convinced the Coalition has made really tough choices. Spending cuts, for example, are increasingly backloaded. The biggest cuts, John Redwood reminds us, are actually due in 2014/15 (the election year). "Time will tell if these plans are fully implemented", blogs Mr Redwood. The public sector pension talks are unlikely to yield substantial savings any time soon. Measures on competitiveness such as ending the 50p tax rate have taken Britain in the right direction but the cut to 45p in one year's time is hardly an electric signal to the world.
Most people do, however, think the Conservative leader is a much tougher, stronger leader than Ed Miliband. The latest YouGov poll has the Conservative Party trailing Labour by 10%. We are down to just 32%. But dig beneath the headline numbers and you'll find more hope for the Conservative Party. By 30% to 19% David Cameron is preferred to Ed Miliband as the person most likely to make the best Prime Minister. Additionally, 27% of voters say their ideal option after the next election is a majority Conservative government and only 30% would most like to see a majority Labour government. That 3% Labour advantage shows that Ed Miliband would be wise to accelerate reforms of the Labour Party.