By Paul Goodman
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A free school battling for its future in a Labour-held marginal. An imaginative housing development set up by a Conservative-run council. A childcare facility which shows how provision can be made more affordable.
These were three settings I suggested David Cameron should visit to follow up his aspiration-centred and well-conceived conference speech of last year. If your main message isn't followed up, it might as well not be made.
Since January, when I wrote the piece, there have been signs that Downing Street has grasped the point. The Prime Minister repeated the theme in his spring conference speech. Its upbeat nature is the other half of last week's downbeat welfare message. We don't just want fewer people on welfare. We want more people in better homes, good schools, decent jobs – and with more opportunities for themselves, their families and their neighbours.
James Forsyth writes in his Mail on Sunday column today that Cameron is this week "to hit the key electoral battlegrounds of Yorkshire, the East and West Midlands and the South-West. Inside No 10, they joke about this being the ‘what did the Romans ever do for us?’ tour after that line in the Monty Python film The Life Of Brian. In the words of one senior figure they want to remind voters that ‘without our economic stewardship, we’d be a Spain’."
Cameron clearly gets the point about housing. James writes that he "intends to push home ownership on the tour, emphasising both that the UK needs to build more houses and that the Government will help people get on the housing ladder".
He intends to do a Cameron Direct-style event on almost every visit. Good. There's always a risk of him being wrong-footed in one of these, but their unpredictability is part of their virtue. He's good at communicating and is quick on his feet.
Indeed, live appearances, especially on TV, are one of his strengths. But the week will go to waste if it doesn't illustrate and repeat, repeat, repeat the message that conservatism is all about opportunity for all.