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Cameron Phase Two? 6 January 2007

Posted by David in Conservatives.
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Matthew Parris talks of David Cameron needing a more statesman like image to his second phase, having been through more than enough “Tory detox”. Those of us who cringed at hug a hoodie, the washing up episode, the NuLab style photo shoots, and the seeming provocation of existing Conservatives will certainly be hoping this new phase has a more “And theory” basis.

We have already been promised “more grit” from David Cameron, so how should this second phase go? And how will it go? We know it’s necessary, to stop the defection of voters to Ukip and to look more credible as a government, combined being the main reason for the party’s poll ceiling of around 38%. A solid lead of 8-10 points minimum is needed for a Tory majority, more if the election is before the new boundaries.

I expect we will continue to see the soft focus Cameron, but he must realise that a more reassuring, can-do, statesman like image must be built if he is to win. He has won over the liberal media, or at least shut them up, now he must win over real people. One success is the fact the BBC now reports on the Conservatives without a compulsory sneer. The skill will be in projecting a sufficiently electable image without upsetting the liberal media.

Getting policies out is also going to be a challenge. The public support conservative policies on immigration, tax, Europe and other areas. Before the last election, polling for Newsnight showed 82% supported controlling immigration, but this dropped to 65% when “Conservative plans to control immigration” was asked – thus proving the image problem they had. Cameron must wrap these policies in a sufficiently ‘caring’ way to make them acceptable to the liberal media, whilst not confusing or putting off the public.

We have already seen this with Davis’ support for the human trafficking convention, whereby victims would be given a one month restbite to recover before having (“being helped”) to return home. Davis had already launched a strict policy on immigration – expect to see immigration linked to rising unemployment, and building on the natural environment/greenbelt.

A sensible Cameron would also be wise to offer something fresh from Labour. The public didn’t understand spin in 1997, it was new, now they spot it miles off. People are looking for conviction and integrity. Cameron should find an issue, at first not hugely known about, and make it headline news. It could also mark a break with Tory past, something like the EU. Promising to leave the EU confronts the issue, and can be linked to free trade, fair trade, ending poverty etc. Stick to the argument, win the opinion over (it already is really), and look different, new, and fresh. It isn’t hard to look young and fresh compared to the Eurocrats, who he should invite to speak and fight their corner, knowing their technocratic jargon will lose them the argument if their sad image doesn’t.

So as we enter Phase-II, traditional Conservatives are mostly hopeful. Hopefully that will be the case.

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