Certainly, the Tories haven’t batted Labour out of the game and they are doing nowhere near as well as Tony Blair was in the mid-1990s. However, as Andrew Rawnsley reminds us in The Observer this morning, that was an exceptional time. Rawnsley, though, thinks that the Tories can not become the government in waiting until they give the electorate a firmer idea of what they would do once they are in power. To put it another way, they have won permission to be heard and now they need to say something.
This criticism isn’t totally fair. There are some impressive Tory policies; notably on education. But it is hard to say how Britain would be different after a term of Cameron government. The tactical need now is for some more boldness. The old caricatures of conservatism have been largely slain by the whole decontamination process—Tory high command must be encouraged by how little damage the Conway affair appears to have done to the party’s standing—and the Tories can not speak out without fear of being shouted down. This does not mean that it is time to return to the old tunes. But the Cameroons should be unafraid of being true to their instincts as they have been on education to good effect.