As the Conservative conference begins, will the party recapture the political initiative?

YES
Alex Singleton

It’s easy to underestimate David Cameron and write him off as wishy-washy. But he’s actually one of the most determined men in politics, who will ruthlessly ditch policies that he deems electorally damaging. His reshuffle last month gave a clear indication that he is listening to critics. Some want to write him off, but he could well regain the political initiative this week. However, he does need to forget about Guardian-reading liberals, who are never going to vote Tory, no matter how many wind farms he inflicts on the countryside. Instead, he should curry favour with the Tory rank and file and with the middle classes, who are overburdened with taxes and feel that politicians do little to improve their lives. And if he wants to stop the annoyance of UKIP, which is poaching Tory members, he needs to offer something concrete on the EU.

Alex Singleton is a political consultant, and managing director of the Singleton Group.

NO
Tom Welsh

The Conservatives could regain the initiative – but it’s not likely. If the economy picks up, the party would claim the credit. But it won’t happen this week. George Osborne has so far proven unable to control the deficit or carry out meaningful reform. And if he keeps pushing his deficit targets further back, the Tories will soon have the unenviable reputation of being the party of austerity that barely touched public expenditure. Secondly, if David Cameron can find a vision for Britain’s future, he could undercut Ed Miliband’s attempt to do the same last week. But what ideas does Cameron have? There’s little sign he’s about to pose an optimistic alternative to Miliband’s clunky pastiche of state-guided patriotism. The Tories could also start putting forward its more popular leaders. Yet Boris is left crowing at the sidelines, while tainted Osborne is given a central role planning electoral strategy. This week will change nothing.

Tom Welsh is financial features writer at City A.M.