Cameron draws election battle lines

Last week David Cameron sought to regain the initiative with a strong speech claiming the mantle of promoting aspiration and social mobility.

George Eustice: 'Cameron usually delivers the speech of his life when his party is on the ropes, and last week was no exception'
George Eustice: 'Cameron usually delivers the speech of his life when his party is on the ropes, and last week was no exception'

It was an important message because the Government has been through a rocky period and, while completely unfair, Labour's political attack that the Conservatives are the party of the rich has gained some traction and must be tackled head on.

Changes to the benefits system, while tough, will make work pay and help people out of poverty. State schools are starting to look and behave more like the private independent schools that today only money can buy, and the lowest earners have been taken out of tax altogether. These are not policies for the rich.

Cameron usually delivers the speech of his life when his party is on the ropes and the stakes are high, and last week was no exception. We started to see the battle lines being drawn ahead of the next election. He framed the choice between a Conservative agenda that tackles the causes of poverty and offers people a ladder to a better life, and a Labour agenda that simply treats the symptoms of poverty, gives people no reason to try and is in denial over debt.

To secure a majority at the next election, there are three key things the Conservatives must get right. Firstly, having made aspiration their central theme, there must be clarity, consistency and repetition in delivering that message and this must be reflected in all that the Government prioritises over the next two years.

Secondly, what finishes off most governments is the unintended consequences of their well-meaning policies which, all too often, are underestimated. So ministers must watch policies that have been introduced very closely and act quickly to pre-empt problems.

Finally, the party needs to start building its campaign machine now. Election campaigns are a bit like military combat and there is an advantage to the side that has a clear structure, clear lines of command and the ability to take and implement considered decisions swiftly. However, these are not natural features of any political party so conscious effort is required.

George Eustice is Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth and a former press secretary to David Cameron

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