The endless merry-go-round of opinion polls is not something I ever get too thrilled about- leaving it to the more anorak-y commentators on Politicalbetting.com.
In particular the gyrations of YouGov do not give me much confidence as to their methodology. The latest YouGov showing Gordon Brown 11% ahead of the Tories, with the Lib Dems, despite a good conference, losing 3% strikes me as more than usually strange. Yet, in the vague atmosphere of election fever, such a strong lead is creating a media frenzy.
For what it is worth, I am not convinced that an election over half term (October 25th) or even in early November is a particularly likely option. Rather, it seems to me that stoking the election speculation achieves two goals: one it leaves the Conservatives on the back foot, and secondly since the lead story in the media is all about a potential election, it eliminates some more difficult questions on things like Northern Rock, which only the most informed journalists even understand the implications. While I am sure that Labour do have a couple of nasty surprises with which to sabotage the increasingly hapless David Cameron- such as rumours of possible defections- I am unconvinced that Brown would go at a time which is so tricky logistically.
In fact, judging by the Comments from Norman Tebbit on David Cameron, it may still be the case that the young Conservative leader has still not eaten his full ration of crow. The open contempt of Thatcherites for the regime of the toffs has now become entirely unconcealed loathing. The visit of Margaret Thatcher to 10 Downing St was in many ways extraordinary- Norman Tebbit's warm words about Gordon Brown merely underline the increasingly shaky control that Cameron has within his own party. It is hard to avoid the idea that, as with William Hague, the Conservatives have looked for youth but found a lack of experience. It seems almost too emblematic that the pin-up boy for Cameron's Conservatives, Adam Rickett, is facing shoplifting charges in New Zealand.
I think there is the serious risk that the forthcoming election- whenever it is held- would be the last for the Conservatives in their current form. Certainly in Scotland, the Conservatives show no signs of emerging from their coma.
The challenge for Liberal Democrats is to demonstrate the practicality of our policies: why they actually deliver what the Daily Mail populists only promise in the criminal justice system, why they will strengthen our economy and why they will deliver a fairer and more open society.
The unlikely alliance of New Labour and Old Thatcherite only serves to underline our contention that we are dealing with an authoritarian and reactionary consensus amongst the other two parties. The more libertarian, more open and freer principles of Liberalism mark out the battle lines, and whenever the election is called it is on those key issues that we can fight our ground.