Conservative party divided – the ghost of parliaments past?

David Cameron launched a renewed press offensive this morning by attacking Gordon Brown. Not announcing policy or even attacking Labour policy. Just attacking Gordon Brown. It’s a risky strategy to be going negative this early in election campaigning. But after the pasting he’s been getting recently, and the ever-shrinking poll lead, Cameron had to do something. So off have come the gloves.

This is his reaction to the last few weeks of problems with the faltering, drifting, Tory campaign. There was the u-turn in spending cuts in their economic policy, Cameron admitting he’d “messed up” with regards to the marriage incentives, and a disastrous ad poster campaign which played into Labour campaigners’ hands. Cameron has decided to move away from Steve Hilton’s broad vision for change strategy in favour of a swing to the right with George Osborne producing specific pledges which will appeal to the core vote of the Conservatives.
So as well as being seen to go negative with personal attacks on Gordon Brown, there are also divisions in the Tory leadership emerging, though Cameron is trying to deflect attention from these. In his remarks today, Cameron accused Brown and Labour of being against Parliamentary reform and happy to allow the 3 MPs accused by the CPS of using Parliamentary privilege to avoid prosecution, which is of course a nonsense and ignores the fact that the Tory party opposed Brown’s recommended reforms which would have made this impossible. It also conveniently ignores the fact that only the courts can decide whether they can use this privilege. Ministers, Prime or otherwise, have no say in it. As a second line of attack, and in the light of the Alex Salmond cash-for-access controversy in Scotland, Dave also jumped on that passing bandwagon by claiming he would “end secret corporate lobbying”, while handily ignoring the facts that large numbers of Tory PPCs worked for lobbying firms and that a lot of top lobbyists have been networking with members of the Tory front bench for some time now.
Cameron’s eagerness to campaign negatively, alongside his jumping on bandwagons of all kinds, and the already apparent divisions both within the Tory leadership and between the leadership and their backbenchers, are signs of panic and an inability to deal with pressure. Not great things to see in a potential government.
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