David Cameron has picked a fight with the police in what a Conservative newspaper is calling a "high-risk" dash for the political centre ground.
The new Tory leader spells out a six-point mini-manifesto in an advertisement in today's Sunday Telegraph, again highlighting global poverty, the environment and the NHS as areas of particular concern. But most striking are the Tory leader's robust words directed at the country's policemen and women whom he terms "Britain's last great unreformed public service".
He puts the service on notice of his intentions with the words: "We shouldn't treat them with kid gloves just because officers do a brave job: we need radical police reform to help cut crime."
Almost as surprising are his words on the environment where he says: " We should not just stand up for big business, but stand up to big business when it's in the interests of Britain and the world. Our shared objective with business is to achieve sustainable economic growth." Of the NHS, his advertisement says: "We want to improve it for everyone, not just help a few opt out."
He combines these statements of intent with a New Year political offensive against his likely opponent at the next election. Despite pledging to ditch "Punch and Judy" politics only weeks ago, Mr Cameron reaches for his verbal clubs in an interview with The Sunday Times. "I think he's very much a 1980s politician," he says. "He's a creature of the past to me, really, and by the next election he'll have been in office for 12 years and parliament for 27. He's a totally confrontational politician. He can never see any good in his opponent."
And the new leader seeks to maximise tension between Tony Blair and Mr Brown by praising the Prime Minister a tactic he hopes will foster Labour disunity. "I think Tony Blair understands much more than Gordon Brown the fact that people want a slightly different style of political discourse ... Gordon Brown is the old-style thump-thump-thump and I think that's exactly what turns people off ... it's just like listening to a speak-your-weight machine on propaganda."
Mr Cameron has also scored a significant coup with the appointment by Rupert Murdoch of a senior Conservative official to a key post in his newspaper empire. Tory hopes of winning the backing of the News International titles at the next election are given a major boost with the arrival of Jonathan Collett, previously Michael Howard's press spokesman.
Mr Collett has been handed responsibility for "political relations" in his role as the magnate's public affairs manager. The task of smoothing Mr Murdoch's relations with Britain's political elite has until now been performed by Alison Clark, famed for her New Labour connections. Mr Collett, by contrast, worked for the Bruges Group, the Eurosceptic campaign body, before joining Mr Howard's inner circle.
Mr Collett's appointment follows Mr Cameron's recruitment of Bob Geldof to a Tory policy review on world poverty.Reuse content