In such a climate, a few positive stories such as a new national holiday for the royal wedding won't cut it. Many people are pessimistic about the future and their finances. The Conservatives must be seen as the party to sort the mess out, not the party that gives you the odd thing to smile about.
It wouldn't be pretty but the Tories need a serious campaign to create and exacerbate divisions between them and Labour on key issues of the day, above all the economy.
This means creating a situation where their spokespeople can say: 'There are fundamental differences between us - we're right and they're wrong.'
The Tories have already been doing this well on the cuts and the polls suggest the public is backing them.
They need to go further, consistently putting Labour on the wrong side of public opinion. And not just on the economy but on other issues the public care about, such as crime and justice, and schools.
Tory strategists should look through the accounts of Bill Clinton's senior team in the mid-90s. After an extraordinarily detailed opinion research programme, they rolled out a series of announcements designed to put them on the right side of public opinion and the Republicans on the wrong side.
With Ed Miliband in place and seemingly determined to govern from the left, there should be plenty for the Tories to go on.
James Frayne is editor of The Campaign War Room blog. Go to campaignwarroom.blogspot.com