Cameron needs a Plan A++

The government's plans based on economic recovery and tax cuts appear to have come off the rails. Which strategy should the Tories now adopt? Emily Hohler reports.

David Cameron is "struggling", says Benedict Brogan in The Daily Telegraph. We've had the "omnishambles, the budget U-turns, the sapping effect of Leveson, and most of all the ever-worsening economic crisis". To win the general election in 2015, the Tories need a political plan B to replace the one based on the economic recovery and tax cuts that never materialised.

Nothing short of a relaunch will do, agrees Tim Montgomerie in The Times. The Tory brand has been re-toxified and new polling from YouGov suggests that "the objectives most associated with the right are cutting public spending, privatisation, cutting benefits, limiting immigration and charging tuition fees".

Big strategic thinking is hard when interrupted by "the arrival of the next ministerial red box", but Cameron could deputise. Installing a "big beast" such as Michael Gove as a party chairman in charge of the regeneration project would send the "strongest possible message" of intent.

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By the next election, the Tory Party will be able to distance itself from the coalition government. "Cameron can describe how he would govern if not restricted by Nick Clegg." By then, the economy may be "at a Goldilocks moment", recovering enough to suggest the medicine is working but too fragile to "entrust it to an unreformed Labour party and the spendaholic Ed Balls".

He's certainly got some de-toxifying to do, agrees Andrew Grice in The Independent. According to Andrew Cooper, the Downing Street strategy director, voters' top concern is that the coalition is out of touch.

This image has been reinforced by the "unflattering" picture of Cameron's so-called Chipping Norton' set painted at the Leveson Inquiry, complete with a text message from News International's Rebekah Brooks about a "country supper".

Following the ill-advised cut to the 50p top rate of income tax, such details reinforce the gulf between voters and the political elite.

George Osborne also needs to act before his post-budget reputation for ineptitude "sets hard", says The Economist. Most Conservative and Lib Dem MPs support his overall strategy, but some of these "quiet loyalists" fret about growth. Osborne should listen.

They don't want a plan B, but rather a "Plan A plus-plus". "That means sticking with austerity while trying to think of ways to increase capital spending on things like social housing, schools or roads without spooking the bond markets."

Osborne should be able to win back some support with his imminent announcement that the value of Renewable Obligation Certificates (the means by which the taxpayer subsidises the wind farm industry) is to be cut by up to 25%, says Brogan. The measure will kill wind farms "stone dead" and puts "clear blue water" between the Tories and the Lib Dems.

Thanks to shale gas, energy prices are likely to fall. "If played right", this could put Cameron on the side of "a global energy revolution that promises to keep the lights on, lower the cost to voters, and energise his electoral prospects when he most needs it".

Emily Hohler

Emily has extensive experience in the world of journalism. She has worked on MoneyWeek for more than 20 years as a former assistant editor and writer. Emily has previously worked on titles including The Times as a Deputy Features Editor, Commissioning Editor at The Independent Sunday Review, The Daily Telegraph, and she spent three years at women's lifestyle magazine Marie Claire as a features writer for three years, early on in her career. 

On MoneyWeek, Emily’s coverage includes Brexit and global markets such as Russia and China. Aside from her writing, Emily is a Nutritional Therapist and she runs her own business called Root Branch Nutrition in Oxfordshire, where she offers consultations and workshops on nutrition and health.