A senior Shadow Cabinet member admitted yesterday that the Tories were "nowhere near" regaining the trust of the public and said he didn't know if they would be able to recover in time for the next election.
Oliver Letwin, the shadow Home Secretary, reflected the pessimism in Iain Duncan Smith's leadership team as he conceded that the Tories had a "huge hill to climb". He told the New Statesman: "What most people want to know about an opposition, as and when they are not inclined to vote for the Government, is this: are these people in whom you would safely put your trust to let them run your country?"
Asked whether the public was ready to offer the Tories that trust, he said: "Nowhere near, nowhere near. We have a huge hill to climb. It is very large. We have to re-establish our credibility as an alternative government. That isn't something we are going to be able to do in a week or a month or a year. It's something we have to try and do over four years."
Pressed on whether that could be achieved, he said: "I don't know. I hope it's doable... We've been in a long and bleak abeyance and I want to see us come out of that." He would not contradict the suggestion that it might take two terms, and a change of leader, before the Tories returned to power.
There will be suspicions that Mr Letwin's comments are part of an orchestrated campaign to dampen the hopes of Tory progress in the near future and thus take some pressure off Mr Duncan Smith's leadership.
However, Michael Ancram, the deputy leader, struck a very different note last night in a speech to the Conservative women's conference. He said: "The going will not be easy, but we are more than ready for the task. Our greatest enemy will be our own lack of faith in ourselves. With confidence, we can create the environment within which we can and will win."Reuse content