Tim Montgomerie: Only long-term plans will ease short-term pain

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The Independent Online

Some opinion polls suggest Labour is now opening up a double digit lead. As the cuts bite the unpopularity will only get worse. The Tory grassroots will absorb these mid-term blues if they think David Cameron has a long-term plan for victory.

The latest ConservativeHome poll of Tory activists finds a substantial majority believing that the Coalition is good for the country but they aren't convinced that it's good for the party's electoral prospects.

Cameron's grassroots members' concern is that he isn't delivering the policies that appeal to key and target constituencies: 58 per cent think Cameron is giving too many concessions to the Liberal Democrats and, as a result, the Coalition's policies on tax, crime, Europe, immigration and defence are too weak.

If Cameron loses May's AV referendum the questions about his electoral strategy will multiply. He will have lost a general election that he should have won and then lost a referendum that will make it harder for many Tory MPs to keep their seats.

The Prime Minister's life would be easier if he had a party chairman who was out there in the constituencies raising grassroots morale. The ideal chairman would also be on every TV screen slamming the Labour Party for its failure to act in the national interest and help find the cuts that will restore the British economy to balance. Margaret Thatcher had Norman Tebbit as one of her hard-hitting chairmen.

Only 10 per cent of Tory members think that Sayeeda Warsi, Cameron's chairman, is the right person for the job. Four times as many want David Davis to be the party's media rottweiler. The earthy former shadow Home Secretary would also bring another mainstream Conservative voice to Cameron's top table.

Is Cameron ready, however, to forgive his 2005 leadership rival for walking out of his Shadow Cabinet to fight his civil liberties campaign? And is David Davis ready to put his reservations about Cameronism aside and serve again? The answer to both questions should be yes. Davis's return would be an electric sign of party reunification.

Tim Montgomerie is the editor of the ConservativeHome political website