Cameron hoping party will uncover from Ukip damage in time for general election
Opinion: Tories hope to scare electorate by painting opponents as Old Labour villains
In the speech, Labour was named 26 times – a replay, some say, of John Major’s 1992 campaign when, surprisingly, he defeated Labour’s Neil Kinnock.
Labour will be painted as the devil incarnate, ready to take the UK back to a pre-Thatcher era of union domination, price controls and shortages.
However, some of Miliband’s campaigning is working – last week’s promise to freeze energy prices is popular and will become more so as winter beckons.
Cameron regards Miliband’s action as economically illiterate, but, equally, he knows only too well that the Conservatives are seen as the party of privilege.
This understanding explains the “land of opportunity” theme of Cameron’s speech, coupled with a tearful mother on stage saying how much education reforms have done for her child.
In a bid to combat Miliband, George Osborne will act on rail season ticket prices, water bills and bank fees to help people struggling with cost-of-living rises over coming months.
Equally, Cameron and Osborne are seeking to borrow from Margaret Thatcher by increasing the number of people with mortgages with the help-to-buy programme, which lets people buy with a 5 per cent deposit.
Despite criticism, and there has been no shortage of it on the grounds that it simply repeats the debt-fuelled sins of the past, the programme’s introduction has been accelerated.
Simply put, mortgage-holders are more likely to vote Conservative, particularly those ones who can be convinced that they have reached such a stage only because of Cameron.
Furthermore, it does something to reverse Tory disfavour with women voters, who have cooled toward the Conservative leader.
Curbing child benefits has been unpopular, NHS reforms, too; the list is endless where women are taking a strikingly more negative attitude than men to the Conservatives.
The cautious tone to Cameron’s speech was partly directed at women, giving off the image of a serious man doing serious work, undistracted by political fluffery.
The message is clear – progress has been made, but titanic work remains to be done, therefore voters should stick with what they know, rather than accept Labour’s blandishments.
Under the original plans laid down in 2010, spending cuts would have been followed by speedy growth in 2011 and 2012. By now, a genuine “feel-good” factor should be abroad.
Progress has been slow, though there are now genuine signs of improvement, but Cameron and Osborne’s message this week – the sunlit lands are visible, if not yet reached – carries risks.
The current momentum visible in housing, job numbers and manufacturing has yet to be felt in people’s pockets. Until it does, Cameron faces an uphill task.