We have a real fight on our hands to win, says Cameron

WILLIAM Hague has claimed the Conservatives could win in an election held today as he dismissed suggestions of a "crisis" in the party's ranks despite gloomy opinion polls suggesting Gordon Brown could lead Labour to a win.

As Tory leader David Cameron sought to steady Tory nerves in his address to the party's final pre-election conference yesterday, the man he calls his deputy in all but name admitted they had yet to "seal the deal" but was adamant the Conservatives would win if voters were called to the polls now.

With the opinion polls narrowing just weeks before the election must be held, he denied there was any complacency within the party and warned voters they would live to regret giving Labour another five years in power.

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"We don't do crisis any more in the Conservative Party," the Shadow Foreign Secretary and MP for Richmond told the Yorkshire Post. "We take things evenly and steadily. There have been no crisis meetings.

"Do we think we have to intensify our efforts to communicate the change we're offering the country? Well, yes, we do.

"That's a natural part of an election campaign to spell out what it means to have a change of Government. We recognise we have to redouble our efforts to do that, and of course it means people understand the urgency of the situation."

Mr Cameron admitted the Tories had a "real fight on their hands" at the election and conceded the race was "tightening up" in the wake of the latest polls which suggested the party's lead had been cut to just two points – the closest for two years – which could still leave Labour with more MPs.

In his speech to the party conference in Brighton, he admitted voters may still have "big questions" about the party but warned of the "dark depression" of another five years of Gordon Brown and said it was the party's "patriotic duty" to turn around the country's fortunes.

With reports of unease within Tory ranks about why the party is not further ahead in the polls – especially after the recent bullying allegations surrounding the Prime Minister – Mr Hague insisted there would be no change of approach but said there would be an "intensification".

He spent last week touring many of the key marginal constituencies in the north of England – where several West Yorkshire seats will play a major part in deciding who wins the election – and insists Tory support is stronger in those crucial seats than elsewhere.

Senior party insiders insist private polling backs up the belief the Tories are well ahead in marginals, and are trying to fight off pleas by the grassroots to give more profile to issues like immigration. Mr Hague said the Tories go into the election in a stronger position than since the 1980s but admitted victory was not "in the bag" because many voters have not yet made up their minds.

"Since no vote has been cast any result is a possibility," he said. "We're planning for and working for a Conservative majority – I believe if the election was held today there would be a Conservative majority. That's where we are today – we would win the election if it was today but it's not today, it's in a few weeks' time."

Yesterday, Labour's Welsh Secretary Peter Hain urged Liberal Democrat supporters to vote tactically to keep the Tories out, claiming that the "decent, progressive majority" in Britain did not want to see a "reactionary, right-wing" Tory party in power.

Referring to the polls, he said: "It is part of a trend. It shows that people are more and more questioning David Cameron and more and more fearful and suspicious of the Conservatives."

Meanwhile, buoyed up by the opinion poll showing the Tories' lead over Labour has been cut to just two points, Mr Brown will today launch a fresh attack on Mr Cameron over his claim that Britain is a "broken society".

In a speech urging local authorities to ensure police funding is protected from spending cuts and calling on forces to ensure new national standards are adhered to, the Prime Minister will attack those who "talk down" the country.

"I love this country – and one of the reasons I'm so proud to serve it is because our community spirit has so often defined what it means to be British. And I greatly resent those who seek to talk down what has been achieved in our communities," he will say.

Comment: Page 10. 'Dance of death' fears: Page 4.