IT is a sure sign that a party leader is on the run when he begins to promise to appoint ministers with special responsibility for this and that in response to media agitation. On a visit to Afghanistan to visit the British troops there David Cameron told them that, if elected, he would appoint a “minister for armed forces' families”.

This minister would oversee such issues as service accommodation, schooling for children and ensuring that military families did not lose their place on NHS waiting lists when they were transferred between bases. It is, of course, right that those fighting overseas should know that their families at home are being properly treated but to suggest that this requires a full-time minister is just nonsense and smacks of an off-the-cuff reaction to gain a few favourable headlines. Mr Cameron also pushed what he obviously hoped would be the right button by telling the troops that under a Conservative government there would be more uniformed personnel instead of “Ministry of Defence bureaucrats polishing desks at home”. Again, one of those remarks that gets a cheer from the right audience but lacks any real substance.

We keep being told that the recommendations of the Conservative policy groups will be made known quite soon; the groups have been studying their respective subject areas for well over a year now and Mr Cameron would be well advised to wait for their views before making ad hoc populist policies himself.