Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Poisoned Polls

Within the course of a day we have seen some very different opinion polls released. Some seem to show the Tories are moving ahead, others show a recovery in Labour.

I am slightly surprised to see the government not being hurt more by the recent rash of bad publicity. The unmasking of John Prescott's secret Croq (uet) habit may not have any major impact, despite the shrill and rather snide comments in the press. As for Larry Lightweight- the current Tory leader- his rather pitiful choice of Ernie, the Fastest Milkman in the West as one of his Desert Island Discs was perhaps one of his more genuine political decisions over the past six months - the remaining choices were trite and formulaic. When a squity, playground kid just wants you to like him, he comes across in much the same way as David Cameron does now- unctuous. I am afraid my gorge just rises and I have the feeling of wanting to give him a good duffing up. The fact is that even on the right, anyone with intellect has some serious doubts about Cameron's soft soap shuffle. The Daily Telegraph, I notice, has been extremely grudging in giving respect to the Tory Leader. For me this underlines the fact that political support remains volatile and brittle- Despite Tory triumphialism, I do not see a sufficient head of support for them to win an outright majority and, given that this ought to be a highpoint of honeymoon support, the Conservatives are very far from home and dry.

Partly I think that opinion formers see through the shallow rhetoric of the shiny public schoolboys and detect the underlying policy vacuum. The failure to put forward an coherent policy agenda is a serious one. Part of the Blair revolution was the intellectual fire power the seemed to be deployed against the outgoing Conservative's- While the then Shadow Chancellor's speech on endogenous growth theory was widely mocked- "it's not Brown's, it's Balls"- it did demonstrate a certain seriousness about economic policy. This seriousness is missing from the Nivea-ed front bench figures such as Osbourne, Ed Vaizey, or indeed Cameron himself.

This provides the Liberal Democrats with an interesting opportunity. Although the Tories have tried to paint Ming Campbell as "too old"- the fact is that he remains very trusted by the electorate- with the erosion of the labor front benches reputation for probity, and the rather shallow Conservative front bench, it may well be that the discourse might favour seriousness in the coming months. The opinion polls are a snapshot- but they are not the photo finish and much may evolve over the next year or so.

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