The Conservative leader David Cameron is being forced to rethink his election strategy amid signs of a mid-campaign wobble by the Tories after the surge in support for the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.
The Tory campaign was described as “the most inept in living memory” by one public- relations expert with Tory links.
Conservative grass-roots activists are being consulted by ConservativeHome, a respected Tory website used by party supporters, over how David Cameron should counter the threat from the Liberal Democrats.
Mr Cameron underlined jitters felt in the Tory leadership by ditching a party political broadcast on the economy with a personal message — dubbed “Cameron: the movie”. A senior Tory Party insider admitted they were finding it “very difficult” to mount a counter-attack on Mr Clegg.
“There is a very difficult line to tread. Some people do want us to take a shot at Mr Clegg, but we don't want to look as though we are just old-style politicians knocking bits off each other. You have to be more subtle than that,” said a Conservative Party source.
Lord Tebbit, the former Conservative Party chairman under Baroness Thatcher, called on Mr Cameron to “puncture the Clegg bubble” before it was too late.
Lord Tebbit said Mr Cameron had been “shy” about talking up his own proposals “for fear that it would frighten the electors”.
Lord Tebbit on BBC radio urged the Tory leader “not to hang around, because there is a Clegg bubble and the imperative is to puncture the bubble before the sixth of May — the seventh would be too late.”
The former Tory “spin doctor” Nick Wood said: “Tory high command must find a way of demonstrating that Nick Clegg's claims to represent a new kind of politics are spurious.”
Mr Cameron insisted he would not change his strategy by stooping to “negative” campaigning.