Peter Hoskin

Tories on the offensive?

Tories on the offensive?
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Another poll, another decreased lead for the Tories.  The latest ICM/Sunday Telegraph poll - the first conducted after both Peter Hain's resignation and the Derek Conway furore - puts Labour on 32 per cent (down 1 from last month); the Conservatives on 37 per cent (down 3); and the Lib Dems on 21 per cent (up three).

I suspect the Tories' uninspiring poll performances are down to their complacent politics since New Year.  Now, however, there are signs that the complacency's fading, and proactivity's reigning once again.

The Sunday Telegraph contains the double-punch of an interview with George Osborne and a comment article by David Davis.  Both pieces set out a different agenda to the Government's. Osborne's headline-grabber is the claim that the Tories will repel Labour's capital gains tax proposals: 

"The Government has got this crazy plan for a £700 million increase in capital gains tax, which hits entrepreneurs. There is no other country in the world that thinks the answer is to increase taxes on enterprise. We are going to plot a path away from that."

And he rounds off with the strident soundbite:

"I'm a Conservative who believes in lower taxes."

Whilst David Davis reiterates the Tory stop-and-search plans, and outlines some new Tory thinking on policing:

"First, a Conservative government would aim for dramatic reductions in the current 29 central government targets for the police. In their place, we would introduce directly-elected police commissioners, to make police forces directly accountable to their local communities.

The police are currently reviewed by a range of national and local audit bodies - one force was subjected to 12 days of inspection visits. We would consolidate the different bodies and alleviate the burden of excessive auditing, by requiring joint inspections.

Second, we will restore government's trust in the professional police officer. As part of wider reform, a Conservative government will abolish "statutory charging" in straightforward magistrates court cases, restoring discretion to the custody sergeant and eliminating the reams of paperwork that police prepare for the Crown Prosecution Service. This will free up to a million police hours per year, allowing officers to re-focus on fighting crime.

Third, we will allow defendants at police stations to appear before magistrates by video for a range of hearings, cutting the time wasted on travel to and from court and waiting for a case to be heard."

Davis' thoughts are the ones most likely to strike home with the public.  That same ICM poll found that the most popular Tory proposal would be to put "more police on the streets".  Tougher on crime, tougher on the causes of crime?  The voters certainly hope so...