And this, I would have thought, bodes well for Cameron at those TV debates. We're always told that Brown is good on detail and so he is. But he is not good at thinking on his feet and connecting with an audience. A good memory is of no use without the emotional intelligence to channel the facts in a way audiences can respond to. This is Cameron's great strength. It's fascinating isn't it. Some were saying that these were a risk for Cameron given that he was so far ahead in the polls. Now it might be the break he needs, notwithstanding my earlier reservations about the reliability of the polls. Brown's team by contrast may worry that the debates could arrest his progress or damage it irreparably.
The speech today, or was it more a fireside chat without the fireside? was a box ticking exercise in many ways. Cameron needed to present himself as more likeable and down to earth, more modern and optimistic, less cynical. The presentation alone will have ticked all of those boxes. This is why this approach works so well. It looks so much better on TV and just gives off the right vibe, almost regardless of the words.
But the words were good too. We may all have our preferences about what we would have liked him to say and perhaps what we think he should have said more about, but in fairness this wasn't that kind of speech. Cameron's critics have argued that there is no overarching theme to the Tory message and this was an attempt to address that. Has it succeeded? In part. It has certainly helped. The Tories are keen to talk about their radicalism, their new approach to the problems created by Labour or which remain unsolved by Labour. The policies are there. Iain Dale gave a precis of them earlier.
- Introduction of border police and a cap on immigration
- A two year freeze on council tax
- Abolish ID cards and roll back the big brother state
- Reduce the number of MPs by 10% and cut the cost of politics
- Allow parents to create their own schools
- Restore the link between pensions and earnings
- Repatriate powers from Europe
- Stop Labour's NI rise which is a tax on jobs
- Cut business taxes to encourage new small business start-ups
- Gove householders more rights to defend themselves against burglars
- Abolition of Inheritance tax for everyone except millionaires
This is a good start to what needs to be a determined fightback. There is no need to attack Brown over his bullying, lying and unsuitability for the job, people already know about that and the press is doing that anyway. It's why he's so unpopular. What they do need to be reminded of is the fact that Brown has no new ideas. His approach is going to be more of the same, the same policies which are failing in so many areas from the economy, unemployment, immigration, education, health, law and order and defence. The Tories have good policies, their approach is right. They just need to get out there and make the arguments and stop Brown getting away with his lies and deceit. Tax cuts are not for the rich, they are for all of us to bring the growth we need to pay back the Brown debt legacy we are all now saddled with.
I should add however that I still think the Tories should announce, perhaps as part of a manifesto launch once the campaign is under way, that they intend to take the low paid out of tax altogether, not with tax credits and so on but by simply changing tax allowances. That would put money in people's pockets quickly and would show that tax cuts are for everyone and can address problems like poverty and welfare dependency at the same time.
Today's polls and the recent drift need not be a disaster for the Tories. They were in a similar position in 2007. This is a wake up call and a call to arms. The election will be called imminently. Brown thinks he has them on the run. But they have the best policies, the best ideas and the only viable approach to sorting out the mess we are in. Brown won't even admit there is a problem let alone that his mistakes have caused those problems. This should make him unelectable. As David Cameron said today, it is his patriotic duty to despatch Gordon Brown to the pages of history. The fight to do just that starts now.