Fraser Nelson

Family-friendly politics

Family-friendly politics
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The urgency behind the “family friendly” agenda - which is to be the theme of the Tories’ spring conference in Gateshead - can be traced to an internal opinion poll presentation delivered by Lord Ashcroft a few weeks ago. Mothers were going off David Cameron, apparently – which panicked the Cameroons not a little, as one of their favourite boasts was that women liked the Cameron/Osborne duet while considering Brown a clunking great fist. Queue panicked policy production: that declaration that they’d claim back the playgrounds from the yobs, and today headlines about six months of fathers’ leave. There will more of this stuff, I’m told, until Ashcroft’s poll improves – and this is the central objective of the Gateshead spring conference.

I gather that almost all internal polling is about the party (and Cameron’s) standing – not on policies. Since Michael Howard left, for example, there have been no polls conducted on crime. Conservatives are having very depressed discussions with each other at the moment, asking the whereabouts of this wider cause they’re supposed to be fighting for. Since I wrote that piece about the drift in CCHQ the week before last (and the talented people who are slowly quitting) several people have told me “alas, you’re right”. Concern about short-termism and poll-based policymaking is rife. I suspect this latest paternity leave announcement will do nothing for this sinking morale. 

Mr Cameron has plenty of good ideas, but he needs to mould them into a discernable Tory mission. He did that in Blackpool last October, when his back was against the wall. Let’s see if he can do it in Gateshead this weekend.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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