Tories wrestle back cuts narrative after abortion spat causes 'worrying 24 hours'

The Conservatives have wrestled back the fairness agenda after it threatened to be upended by controversy over abortion, PROs have claimed.

David Cameron: Looking to appeal to the 'working middle'
David Cameron: Looking to appeal to the 'working middle'

The Tory party conference launched yesterday with a number of high profile announcements, including cuts to benefits and a freeze on council tax.

However, the party’s messaging threatened to be knocked off-course following new health secretary Jeremy Hunt backing a reduction in the legal time for abortion from 24 to 12 weeks.

Gavin Megaw, a director at Hanover, said that Hunt’s controversial words on Saturday had led to ‘a worrying 24 hours for the party'.

‘It looked like the Conservatives had lost control of the news agenda and the narrative but they’ve done a reasonable job of claiming it back,’ said Megaw.

In a joint piece by work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and chancellor George Osborne in the Daily Mail a pledge was made to cut a further £10bn from the benefits budget to fight the deficit and end ‘the something for nothing culture.’

Meanwhile, pledges have also been made around extending the council tax freeze in England for the third year in a row and capping some rail fare increases to inflation plus one per cent.

Megaw saw this as part of re-establishing a message of the party being one that was making ‘tough but fair’ decisions, while emphasising the tough economic conditions the government had inherited.

James Tyrrell, Insight Public Affairs director, said that David Cameron had acted decisively in spelling out that the Government was not looking at the issue of abortion.

This helped minimise fallout from the issue ahead of an importance conference, he added.

Pointing to Ed Miliband’s rebrand of the Labour Party as a ‘One Nation’ party, Tyrrell said that the current battle in politics was over the ‘working middle’.

‘It’s about the fairness and grabbing some of the ground back which Miliband successfully claimed,’ he added.

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