Even Tory insiders admit that while they broadly had the better of the first week of the campaign, Labour had the better of the week just gone. This makes it imperative for their hopes of re-election that the Tories wrest back the initiative this week. As I say in the Mail on Sunday, if they don’t, Tory discipline—which is already beginning to fray a bit—will crack, and Ed Miliband will have the keys to Number 10 within his grasp.
The Tories have made a decent start to this task. Labour has been unsure of how to respond to the Tories’ commitment to give £8 billion more to the NHS. While the fact that the Tories’ inheritance tax break is being paid for by changes to pension tax relief for those earning over £150,000, makes it far harder to attack.
But the idea that really excites Tory ministers is extending the right to buy to housing association properties. If this, as Tory Cabinet Ministers expect, features in the manifesto, it will show that the Tories remain the party of the aspirational, property owning democracy. It will provide some of the vision and the optimism that the Tory campaign hasn’t yet had.
The Tories, though, have two jobs this week. They need to successfully launch their own manifesto but they also need to unpick Labour’s which is launching tomorrow. But I understand that Labour will be keeping some policies back from the manifesto so as to maintain the element of surprise for some announcements they are planning later in the campaign.