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Election: Policy fears over Tories' unfinished manifesto

By Oliver Wright

The Conservatives have yet to finalise their manifesto less than a week before it is due to be launched, amid concern among some Tory MPs that the party is not putting forward a positive enough message to the electorate.

It is understood that drafts of the document were still being rewritten over the Easter weekend and that a finalised version has yet to be signed off by David Cameron. One source suggested that, even at this late stage, Tory strategists were casting around for new "positive and eye-catching" policy pledges to include.

However, other people involved in the process denied this and said it was a question of "tinkering with the language" to make the Conservative message more accessible and appealing.

The last-minute alterations come as some Tory MPs have privately questioned the strategy of the Conservative election chief, Lynton Crosby, to make economic competence the cornerstone of the party's attempt to get re-elected. They fear that the constant attacks on Labour and the lack of a positive vision for Britain under a future Conservative government are putting off potential voters.

One asked: "Where are the sunny uplands? It is all very well attacking Ed Miliband and warning that he will wreck the economy but we need to give a positive reason for people to vote for us as well."

This was echoed by another senior Conservative MP, who said: "He does not understand the politics of passion and belief and that is demotivating. If I have one particular problem it is the failure to adjust from the language of austerity to the language of hope."

While Tory MPs are reluctant to criticise the tone of the campaign in public, some have appeared to come quite close. In an article for the Tory website Conservative Home yesterday Nadhim Zahawi, a member of the party's policy board, appeared tacitly to criticise the campaign's lack of vision.

"In this campaign our message to the electorate is, 'Stick with us and we'll finish the job'," he wrote.

"It's a good opening line but we also need to say why we want to finish the job: to create work for all who want it, a better life for our children and security for families."

A Tory source dismissed the criticism.

"There is nothing more optimistic than a job, a home of your own, dignity and security in retirement and a great education for your children. These are all core elements of the offer we are putting to voters."

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