April 14: Make or break for the Tories

THIS is a make or break day for David Cameron – today’s launch of the Conservatives’ election manifesto needs to be far more effective, and robust than the party’s lacklustre campaign so far if the Prime Minister is to have any chance of being returned to office.

Like it or not, the Tories so appear to have been caught off-guard by the plausibility of Ed Miliband on the campaign trail. He is proving to be resolute, despite the serious misgivings that remain about the credibility of Labour’s economic strategy and deficit reduction plans.

Yet the same can be said of the Conservatives, the supposed financial guardians of this country. Their campaign has swung to and fro between smears against Mr Miliband’s credibility and spending proposals – like an extra £8bn for the NHS – that have lacked detail.

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Perhaps the problem is that Mr Cameron’s campaign is being run by the Australian strategist Lynton Crosby and his inability relate to British voters as they try to weigh up the Tory mantra of a “long-term economic plan” versus Mr Miliband’s “better plan for a better future”.

What people actually want is a positive reason to go to polls on May 7 rather than the relentless negativity that has defined this campaign to date. In this regard, Mr Cameron does have a positive story to tell. The Britain of today is in a much better place compared to five years ago when the country was lurching from one financial crisis to another. Yet, while the reconfiguration of the public balances are still a work in progress, it is Conservative values of hard work, enterprise and low taxes that are critical to sustaining a new generation of private sector jobs rather than a return to Labour’s state interventionism. With all the key economic parameters favouring the Tories, this is Mr Cameron’s election to win. However it will only happen if the PM starts looking to the future – and not the past.

Don’t forget Bradford, a city on the up

WITH luck, the belated construction of the Westfield shopping centre in Bradford will correspond with an upturn in the economic fortunes of this proud West Yorkshire city. It has an unfortunate reputation for making national headlines for the wrong reasons, the one exception being the Wembley exploits of Bradford City Football Club under Phil Parkinson’s management.

However, as Westminster looks to empower the North, it is important that the plans for the Leeds City Region does not marginalise Bradford because of a misguided belief that a city synonymous with the likes of JP Priestley, Titus Salt and David Hockney is inferior to its near neighbour in West Yorkshire – the fortunes of both are inter-related, not least on the key issue of transport.

As such, the fact that Bradford is rated so poorly when it comes to commuters being able to use mobile devices to pay for parking charges or tickets is a reminder that the city’s infrastructure does need to keep pace with the times if it is going to gain a reputation as a vibrant and dynamic place to live.

This will require the strong leadership at a local, regional and national level as well as Bradfordians realising that they, too, have a key role to play in championing the city so that decision-makers and wealth-creators recognise the scale of the opportunities that do exist here – Bradford is too important to be regarded as a suburb of Leeds. It is not.

Wilde’s weather...the great national obsession

WHEN OSCAR Wilde wrote that “conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative”, he probably didn’t foresee the climatic changes that have been the subject of so much idle chatter at the office water cooler.

Is it any wonder that half the population cannot go more than six hours without talking about Britain’s national obsession – the weather – when Yorkshire is forecast to bask in a heatwave just days after the county was shivering in Arctic-like winds?

From people complaining that it was too cold, now it is set to be too hot – even though the warm spell will be a welcome boost to the county’s East Coast resorts whose fortunes do depend on the rain clouds staying away during the school holidays.

They will be hoping that the warm front remains until the first weekend of May when the county hosts the inaugural Tour de Yorkshire cycle race, an event critical to the success of the region’s tourism industry. In this regard, Oscar Wilde was wrong. Weather talk should not be derided – it is big business and sun-kissed skies are critical to this region’s prosperity and wellbeing.