Hold tight Howard; the road is long and you've seen the next winding turn
The Conservative campaign, according to the polls at least, seems to be faltering. Many may panic at this, but I don't see it as a major cause for concern. A clear win is out of the question. The challenge is getting into the position whereby 2009/10 is a serious shot. Whatever happens, I believe that Howard's professionalism and the institutional changes he has affected within the party give the Conservatives a real shot at winning that one outright. What's more I also believe that a lot of "under the radar" campaigning in key areas will reap dividends come this election day. As such Howard must hold his nerve and stay the race. The, already planned, announcements on tax will help and the television appearances coming up will help convey the image of competency the party needs. I am still standing by the betting market predictions of an 80-90 seat Labour majority.
Most importantly what I hope this result will offer is a time for genuine thematic renewal within the Party. That hasn't happened and cannot happen mid-campaign. The guerilla tactics must continue, even though Mark Steyn's analysis is correct. A reassessment and restatement to the public of what the values of the Party are and what a Tory Britain will really look like. They can do this, and they will have the personnel for a new era to really connect with Britain. The challenge is to change people's perceptions. The first barrier is to seem competitive. If Howard keeps his nerve, and maintains the smell of fear which currently exudes from the Labour camp, then he will have achieved this. The next stage is to prepare the ground for that renewal and the leader/team who can best communicate it.