In a speech today, David Cameron will launch the first of six core themes of the Conservatives’ manifesto: the deficit.
The six subjects that the Tories have chosen as their priorities reveal their reluctance to fight the election on other parties’ turf.
– The deficit
– Tax levels
– Home ownership
Although the Westminster wisdom is that it is safer to fight elections on the battlegrounds your party is strongest on, and has the most weapons in its armoury for, the subjects not included in this list do stand out rather starkly.
The absence of focus on the health service is certainly something that will jar with an electorate to whom the NHS is precious and consistently popular, as well as with Cameron’s political opponents. Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Chris Leslie MP, condemned the Tories’ omission of the NHS, particularly in this tempestuous time for emergency departments:
After a week when we’ve seen a Tory NHS crisis worsening day after day it’s a staggering omission by David Cameron to fail to make the NHS one of his six themes.
As well as this, the lack of a mention of immigration shows up Cameron’s rhetoric on the subject in his past year or so in office as rather hollow. Whispers last year of the Prime Minister’s planned attempt to demand an “emergency brake” on EU migration to Britain, which never came to fruition, and Cameron’s focus on curbing benefits to migrants as a half-hearted (and misguided) attempt to bring down the net migration level on which he so drastically missed his target late last year, have completely disappeared on his list of priorities.
Clearly he saw a crackdown on immigration as an important bit of rhetoric to counter Ukip, but the reality of the subject – along with Britain’s EU membership, another sore topic that has been the cause of much Tory chattering and heartache during this parliament – is ultimately not one he feels the need to focus on. An editorial in today’s Sun expresses disappointment about the fact that immigration won’t feature on the Tories’ key manifesto themes.
Upsetting the left, and the general public, by disregarding the health service, as well as riling the right, and again, the general public, by ignoring immigration, in his priorities will lead Cameron to face some awkward questions on his way to May.