David Cameron has launched another raid into Labour's natural territory by hailing the Conservatives as the "true progressives" of British politics.
Writing in The Independent, the Tory leader is seeking to exploit Gordon Brown's continuing problems over his abolition of the 10p tax rate by arguing that Labour's top-down solutions have failed on poverty, social mobility, welfare, education, the economy and the environment.
In a pitch for centre-left voters following his party's victory in last week's local and London elections, Mr Cameron says: "If you care about poverty, if you care about inequality, if you care about the environment – forget about the Labour Party. It has forgotten about you. If you count yourself a progressive, a true progressive, only we can achieve real change."
His words echo Neil Kinnock's searing attack on the Tory government at the 1983 general election, when he was Labour leader: "If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday, I warn you not to be ordinary, I warn you not to be young, I warn you not to fall ill, and I warn you not to grow old."
Mr Cameron's intervention will infuriate Mr Brown, who argues the Tories originally opposed many of the progressive Labour policies – such as a national minimum wage and tax credits – they now support. The Prime Minister insists he has targeted help on the poorest families since 1997, despite the row over the 10p tax rate. Mr Cameron's comments will also be seen as an attempt to woo voters who have doubts about Labour directly to the Tories and prevent them switching to the Liberal Democrats.
He concedes that traditional centre-left ideas, such as income redistribution or state-run programmes, did relieve poverty but insists they have run their course.
The Tory leader argues that the progressive end – making British poverty history – is now best achieved by conservative means, and this means addressing the causes of poverty rather than just the symptoms. He claims: "It is the Conservative Party that is the champion of progressive ideals in Britain today."
* A YouGov survey for The Sun puts the Tories on 49 per cent, Labour on 23 per cent, its lowest since polling began in the 1930s, and the Liberal Democrats on 17 per cent. But it suggests Labour would do even worse if it ditched Mr Brown.Reuse content