Tories launch image overhaul to make MPs appear more trustworthy

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Indy Politics

Conservative MPs have been told to "talk normally" in television interviews as part of another image relaunch to present the party as a caring defender of the vulnerable.

Iain Duncan Smith ordered the PR overhaul after the Tories failed to make a breakthrough in the local elections and internal polls showed they were still not trusted by voters.

In what one shadow minister described as "electric shock therapy" for the party's MPs, all front and backbenchers will be urged to get out of Westminster and campaign across the country on public services.

The campaign aims to build on Mr Duncan Smith's pledge in his speech to the spring conference in Harrogate to protect the worst off in society. The "repositioning" was approved by the Shadow Cabinet on Wednesday and Mr Duncan Smith met backbench MPs yesterday to confirm his message.

During the presentation, "new communications rules" were also outlined to MPs. Among the rules, which stress that "TV is the overwhelming priority", are "when on TV, talk normally", "involve the public in what you do" and "repeat the basic messages endlessly".

MPs were advised to "recruit third parties and build cross-party coalitions" and told that criticism of the Government "is important but it must be credible and measured". A Tory insider said the aim was to force all MPs to "live the new brand".

The change in emphasis was underlined last night when Michael Ancram, the shadow Foreign Secretary, rejected hardline Euroscepticism in a speech on the EU. Mr Ancram said the party would review its policy on the EU and come up with "constructive" ideas for reform. He rejected calls to pull out of the EU or form a free trade area with America. "Europe may well be facing economic problems. It is however certainly not in our interests for these to continue. Moreover our trade is vitally tied up with Europe and affected by European legislation," he said.