Colin Brown: Howard - Five big themes, and a vow to visit 165 key seats

Share

Michael Howard vowed to continue raising "difficult issues" such as asylum and Gypsies as he invited voters to wipe the smile off Tony Blair's face on 5 May.

Michael Howard vowed to continue raising "difficult issues" such as asylum and Gypsies as he invited voters to wipe the smile off Tony Blair's face on 5 May.

Launching his party's campaign at a London hotel, the Tory leader said he would not "appease special interest groups" or sweep sensitive issues under the carpet. "Everyone knows you won't fix a problem if you aren't even prepared to discuss it," he said.

Mr Howard declared that he would not be distracted from doing what was best for Britain by "the smirking politics of Mr Blair or the woolly thinking of the Liberal Democrats."

His message to voters was: "Mr Blair is already secretly grinning about the prospect of his third victory. Well, you don't have to settle for that."

He added: "The choice before voters on 5 May is very clear. They can either reward Mr Blair for eight years of broken promises and vote for another five years of talk. Or they can vote Conservative, to support a party that's taken a stand and is committed to action on the issues that matter to hard working Britons." Mr Howard is promising to visit every one of the 165 seats on the Tories' target list by election day, where their private polls suggest they are doing better than the nationwide surveys suggest. His campaign will focus on his five main themes of law and order, immigration, tax cuts, school discipline and the MRSA hospital superbug.

Tory strategists are also keen for him to use his secret weapon - his wife Sandra, the former model - who is seen as a vital asset in softening the hardline image he had while he was Home Secretary.

But Mr Howard is being advised by senior party officials to attack Mr Blair for a lack of trust after the war on Iraq. "There has been a big change since 2001,'' said one senior Tory. "If Brown were now the leader, we would be toast. But there is a lot of disillusionment with Blair over the trust issue."

The sacking of Howard Flight as a Tory MP for saying he wanted the Tories to go further in cutting public spending appeared to be a blunder. But according to yesterday's NOP poll in The Independent, it seems to have won the support of Tory voters as a welcome smack of firm leadership.

Mr Howard knows that the fate of the Conservative Party rests in his hands over the next three weeks. Another disastrous defeat could plunge the Tory Party into a fight for its own survival, and the search for a younger leader.

William Hague, who failed to dent Tony Blair's massive majority in 2001, was criticised for ditching his strategy in the final days of electioneering by concentrating on immigration and the "save the pound" campaign to secure the core Tory vote.

With a referendum on the European constitution guaranteed after the election, whoever wins, Mr Howard is being advised to keep off the divisive Europe issue and to focus on the domestic agenda. The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, stole some of the Tory thunder by raising the stamp duty threshold in the Budget. However, he refused to raise tax thresholds for many who have been dragged into the higher rate income tax band by wage inflation.

Mr Howard will promise to lift key workers out of the top 40 per cent tax band and is also expected to pledge to raise the starting point for inheritance tax. However, Mr Howard has been given polling evidence to show that the Government is less vulnerable on the economy than on immigration and asylum, the main issue on which the Tories have a strong lead over Labour.

"The issues that William Hague played on in 2001 are beginning to resonate. He has said it was too early, but it is now beginning to change," said one Tory source. "On the economy, you cannot beat Blair because the economy has not crashed yet. On law and order and asylum and immigration, Howard is on to a winner. What we need is more of the same from Howard."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Administrator

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are a world leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Upholsterer

£9 - £15 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are seeking excellent indi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nick Clegg (R) Liberal Democrat Leader and former leader Charles Kennedy MP, joined the general election campaign trail on April 8, 2010  

Charles Kennedy: The only mainstream political leader who spoke sense

Tim Farron
 

The strangely parallel lives of Oliver Letwin and Ed Miliband

Matthew Norman
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral