One thing is already apparent about the Tories’ 2015 campaign, it will be even more dependent on David Cameron than the 2010 one was. Why, because as Anthony Wells points out again today, Cameron polls ahead of his party.
There’ll be those who criticise this decision. They’ll point out that the big billboard posters of him in 2010 backfired badly. Others will wonder what more juice can be squeezed out of Cameron, given that by the next election he’ll have been leading the party for nigh-on ten years.
But to the Tory leadership, the Cameron lead on the best Prime Minister question is one of their trump cards. It is key to their attempt to take seats off the Lib Dems. For Tory candidates can offer what Liberal Democrat MPs cannot: a vote for them is a vote for Cameron to be returned to No. 10. It is also going to be a big part of their pitch to wavering, centre-ground voters.
Labour sources point out that Cameron’s lead on the best PM question is about half what it was when Miliband became Labour leader. They also argue that the Tories’ wouldn’t be foot-dragging on the election debates question, if they were so confident of the Cameron Miliband match-up. But I suspect that Tory reluctance to agree to the debates now is more a negotiating position than anything else.
There is, as I say in the column this week, a certain irony about the modernisers’ reliance on Cameron. If they had genuinely succeeded in changing voters’ perceptions of the party, they wouldn’t have to rely on the leader so much.