David Blackburn

Call yourself a PR man?

Call yourself a PR man?
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The latest Comres poll for the Independent indicates, as if we needed telling, that the Tories are yet to seal the deal. It’s far from panic stations – the lead remains at 9 points – but there are two figures that prove where the Tories are going wrong. The majority of respondents feel that a Conservative government would exclusively represent the interests of the rich, and the contention that the Tories represent an appealing alternative to Labour was rejected.

If Cameron is merely a PR man I hope he’s cheap. Aside from Alex Salmond I can’t envisage anything worse than five more years of Gordon, and this suggests to me that Cameron is struggling to communicate with voters. Nowhere is this more palpable than the preposterous class war. Emphatically, the Conservatives are not the party of the rich: they favour a 50 percent tax rate, and it is most bizarre that Alistair Darling is heralded a champion of the middle classes for pooling couples’ IHT allowances whilst Osborne is lynched for proposing to abolish those very same couples’ IHT liabilities. The Tories must express that point vehemently.

Cameron’s immediate predicament extends beyond tax, class and the rich. The confidence of the summer has given way to wintery pessimism. Throughout July and August, the Tories hijacked Labour’s agenda on poverty and social mobility. It was an act of brazen political theft and Mandelson et al were livid at their inability to halt the annexation, and it was a decisive demonstration of the shift in British politics. Now the Tories are extremely cautious and uncertain. The weekly PMQs circus illustrates this. Cameron has failed to damage a Prime Minister whose recklessness has driven us to the brink of bankruptcy but who remains visibly intoxicated by the myth of his own greatness. William Hague was so inept last week that he made Harriet Harman look like a postmodern Boadicea.

 

Both Cameron and Hague look haunted by the prospect of defeat; the public sense this. The Tories still dominate debate on tackling poverty, welfare dependency, education, the size of the state and the public finances. Exhausted, Labour is bereft of originality; the PBR is a case in point. The Conservatives do not need a policy blitz to regain the initiative; they simply need to communicate and believe.