Will Cameron’s “say nothing” gamble succeed?

Will Cameron’s “say nothing” gamble succeed?

Is Blair’s being “all things to all people” the right approach?

So we are nearly there – the final party conference before the general election – and all the pressure is on Cameron and his Tory team to spell out what a Conservative government would do.

But is setting out in detail the party’s plans the wrong approach for it just provides ammunition for his opponents to pick at and then throw back at him? Thus far being evasive has worked but as we get closer to the election the demands for specifics will grow.

As part of its pressure the Indy on Sunday makes its splash the findings in its latest ComRes poll that by a split of 49 – 47% voters agreed with the statement “I don’t really know what David Cameron stands for”– a proportion that has hardly changed whenever the firm has asked the question since July last year.

The Tony Blair biographer, John Rentoul, in an insightful column in today’s Indy on Sunday argues that following the Blair way is probably the right one.

“.. For Sun readers, Dave stands for the values of Sun readers. Yet when he talks to The Independent on Sunday, he couldn’t care more about the environment, or civil liberties, and he’s a “liberal conservative not a neo-conservative” in foreign policy.

This is opportunistic, reprehensible and the right strategy for a democratic politician….

…. Two weeks ago I wrote that the Irish referendum would be a test of Cameron’s leadership. I thought he should face down the Europhobes, and tell them that, if the Tories won the election and the Lisbon Treaty were in force, they would have to live with it.

How naive of me. Tell the swivel-eyed, straight-banana brigade the truth? What was I thinking of? Tony Blair’s Clause IV moment? Oh dear, I think I must have had one of those rose-tinted nostalgia moments. The fact is that Blair was so bold that he didn’t even mention Clause IV in his conference speech for fear of a hostile reaction in the hall…

..This week the Conservatives will announce a lot of policy that will be trivial or recycled, to try to give the impression of a party preparing for government. Cameron’s real challenge this week is simpler: to get through to the end of his party conference having made as few and as small new promises as possible.”

The most interesting question of the week is whether he can get away with this? This is Cameron’s big gamble and whether it works or not depends on the media narrative. Will it succeed? I don’t know – but we’ll get a feel in the next few hours starting with his appearance on BBC1’s Andrew Marr programme and the way it is reported.

Mike Smithson

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