Saturday 17 April 2010

Cameron promises not to go negative - but are the Tories getting the knives out?

"I do not believe in being negative and trying to pull the others down", said David Cameron yesterday as the Conservative party leader promised he would not go negative in response to his shaky performance in the first televised leaders' debate, and the strong overnight poll boost for Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats.

It would be commendable for the Conservative leader to insist his party offers a positive vision of his 'big society' agenda - it would fit with the political strategy of 'reassurance' and countering fears of a Tory government which informed his approach to Thursday's debate.

But many in his party want a much tougher aggressive response towards both the Liberal Democrats and Gordon Brown's Labour government, against which the Conservatives have consistently been fighting a highly negative campaign for months.

Cameron has previously admitted he had broken his promise to "end Punch and Judy politics", which he had made a central point of his wish to do politics differently on becoming party leader:

“I will absolutely hold up my hands and say this is a promise I have not been able to deliver,” he told the Today programme.

I take a robust approach. I don’t make any apology for that,” he said.

“The quieter tone I’d hoped we might be able to have, the better discussion of politics at Prime Minister’s Questions, doesn’t work.”

The question of what the Tories will do this weekend reflects one of the core unresolved strategic tensions about the content, message and tone of the Conservative campaign - with his guru Steve Hilton wanting a thematic "hope" campaign focused on a positive vision, and his communications director Andy Coulson believing in a much more aggressive and punchy "pub ready" assault against political opponents.

This is decision time.

My guess is that, with the pressure very much on the Tory camp, Coulson will prevail - and that the Conservatives will attack the LibDems hard over immigration, defence, crime and tax.

With the leader having promised the opposite, perhaps we can expect a more upbeat and positive Tory message this weekend after all.


mikeovswinton said...

The Tories aren't negative yet? I drove from Manchester city centre to an event in the constituency of Bury South last night. Wish I had a fiver for every Tory poster that had a huge photo of Gordon Brown and some smartarse comment on it. Mind you they've got one up in Piccadilly Manchester and haven't twigged that virtually no-one who is in the area can read the words - you just see a giant photo of Gordon Borwn.

mikeovswinton said...

Or even Gordon Brown.....

Newmania said...

They should , and Europe there is something of X Factor and something of Mussolini about Clegg`s promise to save us from Parliamentary Democracy.

mikeovswinton said...

Just wandered past the Piccadilly site again Newmania and wondered how much of Ashcroft's cash that wasted. Quite a lot I'd guess as its an electronic city centre site.