The Tories need to do three things when talking about the economy. First, give the public some straight talk about how bad the situation is. Second, pin sufficient blame on Gordon Brown and the government for the current problem. Finally they need to show the electorate that life would be better under the Conservatives, that after four years of Tory government the economy would be growing again and Britain would once more have a bright future. In strategic terms, the challenge the Tories face is similar to the one that the Reagan campaign faced in 1980. The Tories could learn a lot from Reagan’s economic rhetoric in that election.
This past week, the Tories pulled off this triple play. The baby debt message accounted for the first two and their green proposals for the final part.
Since the banking crisis started the Tories have too often neglected to show voters a vision where they want to lead to Britain. This is a mistake. It allows Labour’s charge that the Tories aren’t ready to lead to gain traction and enables Brown to try and turn the economic question into a referendum on crisis management, where incumbency gives Labour an advantage. Last but not least, voters who have been won over by a positive Tory vision are far less likely to go back to Labour.