Last night David Cameron, George Osborne and Lynton Crosby held a meeting with the Conservative parliamentary party. Coffee House has exclusive details of what took place.
There was a presentation on how well the party was doing from the Prime Minister (without any new information), and one from Lynton Crosby in which the strategist asked Tory MP James Morris to stand up and take a round of applause for passing on the ‘nightmare’ email from the Ed Miliband’s office to the Mail on Sunday. Sir George Young brought less exciting news that MPs will have to pull their weight a great deal more by serving on more statutory instrument committees. But backbenchers also had a chance to quiz their leaders on some of their big worries.
There were also questions from three MPs on what the plan is for other parties. One wanted to know what the plan was for Ukip (today’s immigration announcement is partly an effort to show that there is a plan), another argued that in some areas the party did need to help the Lib Dem vote because a collapse in support for the Tories’ coalition partners could lose a number of marginal seats, while a third argued that the Conservatives were still being far too gentlemanly to Labour. I’m told that Crosby’s very careful answer to the Lib Dem question, which was from Sir Edward Leigh, was ‘a bit Vicky Pollard’: a yeah-but-no answer. Daniel Kawczynski also pressed the Prime Minister on what the party was doing about blue collar Conservatives.
One backbencher also gave Osborne a grilling over his constant references to the low interest rates that the economy is currently enjoying. Osborne told the room that interest rates were nothing to do with him, but the MP warned that when they do rise, the Chancellor’s desire to own the low interest rates will mean voters also blame him for high ones. I understand that others high up in the party have also been nervous that Osborne is trying to take ownership of the economic recovery.
It is interesting that so many of the questions were on issues that have been specifically addressed at previous parliamentary party meetings. Crosby has been very careful to set out the road map for attacking Labour and Ukip in particular, but backbenchers still seem jittery. But their questions are much more focused on what the plan of attack is, rather than on pet policy gripes on Europe, as they have been in the past. This shows that the party really is on an election footing now.