Peter Hoskin

Can the Tories turn things from personality to policy?

Can the Tories turn things from personality to policy?
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If the Lib Dem surge shows anything, then it's the growing power of personality politics in this country.  A few days ago, they're languishing in third place with around 20 percent of the vote.  One dose of TV razzmatazz later, and they're topping the polls on over 30 percent.  Yes, even though I admire much of what Nick Clegg has done with his party, there's little doubt that all this has been catalysed by simply putting him in front of the cameras.  Like someone with an okay singing voice reaching the X-Factor final, the Lib Dem leader triumphed in what was essentially a clash of personalities.

Further evidence for this comes in the Sun this morning: the yellow bird of liberty may be soaring, but voters are still wary about many core Lib Dem policies - particularly when it comes to Europe.  Which rather puts the Conservatves in an unfamiliar position.  For years now, they have been able to rely on personality politics themselves.  I mean, put David Cameron next to Gordon Brown, and you've almost got your case for change right there: the young, energetic contender versus the dour, doom-laden Prime Minister.  But, now, Cameron seems to have lost his mantle as the personification of change - and we all know who it's gone to.

Which is why the Tories are now keen to emphasise policy, and particularly policy which might appeal to those looking towards Clegg.  Yesterday, Cameron wrote an article on the Big Society in the Observer.  Today, he's interviewed on the same subject in the Guardian, and is giving a speech on it in South London this morning.  The joy of this policy platform is that it is, in relative terms, the insurgency agenda - promising to widely decentralise power from Westminster to the public.  But the question is whether voters would prefer that to the insurgency candidate.  Policy vs Personality: the battle which may decide Election 2010.