This Conservative party poster was released after Labour refused to rule out making a deal with the SNP after the next election
The Tory election strategy is facing a growing Cabinet and backbench backlash with ministers worried the party is pumping out an aggressive and uninspiring message to voters.
Alarm is growing among Conservative MPs that they have failed to open up a lead in the opinion polls and they fear the party’s “competence not chaos” mantra is not winning over voters as it lacks optimism.
Some ministers fear the bellicose language alienates women. Criticism has been aimed particularly at Lynton Crosby, the election campaign director.
The Australian strategist has total control of the Tory campaign and put the “long-term economic plan” at its heart, warning a Labour victory in May will jeopardise the recovery.
One minister said tensions are growing around the Cabinet table. “Lynton keeps saying the polls will pick up and we need to hold our nerve,” the minister said. “You can be pretty sure panic will set in if there isn’t significant movement early in April. He insists the voters won’t focus on the choice before them until that moment. But people are worried we have got the whole tone a bit wrong.”
Another Cabinet minister said: “We need to appeal to people’s hearts as well as their heads. There needs to be a touch of inspiration, really giving people a positive reason for going to the polling station.”
Mr Crosby was instrumental in David Cameron’s refusal to take part in three election debates with other party leaders. He is said to be relaxed about broadcasters’ threat to go ahead without the Prime Minister, believing the issue does not concern people outside the Westminster Village. Some ministers fear an “empty chair” will damage Mr Cameron’s image, but Mr Crosby believes two debates between six other party leaders without him would underline the “competence or chaos” message.
Allies insist Mr Cameron retains full confidence in Mr Crosby because he has brought a discipline the campaign lacked at the 2010 election.