David Blackburn

The Tories’ problems have more to do with branding

The Tories’ problems have more to do with branding
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Two weeks ago, David Cameron delivered a brilliant speech. It keyed into exactly what Michael Wolff means by the phrase, 'Cameron is a politician who quells, smooths, conflates, reassures.' It offered hope and optimism, a future free of the current morass. In that case, why are the Tories still faltering?

Cameron rode on the wake of Brown’s incompetence for eighteen months. It was never an exclusively positive endorsement, something of which Cameron was aware. Mandelson, Campbell et al have brought Labour back into the race with a series of well aimed jibes that the Tories haven’t changed. Paralysed by sudden self-doubt in the face of Labour’s resurgence, the battle has thus far been about them, not the government’s record. They cannot go on like this.  

The Tories have abandoned their obsolete politics. I agree with Tim Montgomery and Danny Finkelstein that they must continue to stress the novelty of their brand because it is that which made them electable. The  Tories' problem is that timidity has made them shy away from providing a bold and credible alternative. It’s the economy stupid: the Tories must forge a different line from Labour. As Finkelstein notes in his column today:

‘They lose sight of the fact that their best moments (Mr Cameron’s speech without notes and his response on expenses, George Osborne’s big calls on taxes and debt and spending) have been when they have been reinforcing their new brand.’

The Duke of Wellington was adamant that the best form of attack was defence. He maxim does not apply here. You feel that the public wants boldness in the present to assure the future.