PB’s LAB insider, Henry G Manson, gives his assessment of Cameron’s approach to the debates saga

PB’s LAB insider, Henry G Manson, gives his assessment of Cameron’s approach to the debates saga

It’d tricky for Dave coming under scrutiny from 6 different sides

David Cameron is a good media performer and remains his party’s biggest asset. There has been a lot of focus on the suggestion that despite this it’d be better for his party if he avoids the televised debates because of the platform it will give Ed Miliband. I know the theory, but this does not stack up for me and seem that convincing. What else could Conservative strategists be worried about?

The Prime Minister has always made a big play in how he was a man true to his word and would keep his promises. He has rigorously defended many of his pre-election pledges from a position of strength in comparison to Liberal Democrat colleagues forcing them to u-turn on their biggest signature issue tuition fees. But over the last year it’s clear that an increasing proportion of Conservative pre-election promises have been blown apart. If you were Lynton Crosby you’d be arguing it was far better to gloss over these shortcomings with a friendly print media and carefully controlled broadcast opportunities rather than give opponents an opening.

A multi-party debate could actually be the worst possible format for Cameron because it would allow each of the other parties, but having argued so vociferously for the Greens’ inclusion to wreck the debates, he’s not now in a position to move back on this. Let’s just think about how a it would play out for the Tory leader. It’s not pretty.

    UKIP would go big on Cameron’s spectacular failure on immigration numbers. Cameron promised net migration reduced to tens of thousands the outcome was 298,000 for the last 12 months. Sure, Cameron could highlight the dottiness and disturbing views of some UKIP candidates, but this was a clear pledge from the Tory Party on a topic of concern to a lot of voters and one that has not been met.

    Greens would contrast Cameron’s promise of the ‘greenest government ever’ with his support for fracking, lack of leadership on carbon emissions, opposition to wind-farms , attempted sell-off of public forests, and reported remarks of ‘cutting the green crap’. Cameron is now open to ridicule for the memorable pre-2010 stunts such as spending time with huskies or having a wind turbine installed on his roof. Even Natalie Bennett couldn’t cock that up.

    Labour could go big on the squeeze of living standards, the tax cut to millionaire’s or bedroom tax but more likely to attack the Prime Minister over the NHS. The worst A and E waiting times in a decade There’s 66 hospital A & Es and maternity units closed or downgraded despite a promise h from when he was in opposition. The pressures on hospitals are not abating with more problems expected in early April – right ahead of the debates.

    Liberal Democrats would have to use this opportunity to differentiate themselves from the party they’ve been propping up through coalition since 2010. They’ve spent more than enough airtime attacking Labour over the years so Dave could expect to hear how the Lib Dems have humanised an uncaring and unfeeling Tory party and explain what policies they’ve blocked. Blogger Mark Pack has 18 such policies and some of these could get an airing. Expect to hear how Clegg helped stopped profit-making schools being introduced and prevented lower pay for public sector workers in the south west and north where they are fighting to defend seats.

    The nationalist parties would be highlighting how their respective nations have been badly served by Conservative cuts compared to leafy shires. The relative lack of Tory representation in their respective nations will be held up of proof as to why SNP/Plaid Cymru support is needed.

It doesn’t take much imagination to see how David Cameron would be on the back-foot throughout the bulk of these debates and attacked from all sides. Of course Ed Miliband is better than the Conservatives make out, but there’s much more to it than this. Like a pair of laddered tights, Cameron now has clearly visible holes in his record and won’t want anyone to point them out.

Henry G Manson

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