Sunday, 28 February 2010

One poll has Cam down, I said calm down

Cameron on the run in Brighton this morning but The Clunking Fist is catching up

For a Sunday morning that was an extraordinary amount of phone, e mail, text, twitter and blog traffic - all on the one subject. The Tory lead over Labour is down to two per cent - 37% to 35% - which has sent a jolt of electricity through the political village.

It left the Tories gathered in Brighton quite stunned, I'm told, but in his speech David Cameron didn't find the counterpunch he needed to rally the troops. There was a commitment on the marriage policy but the broadbrush approach isn't going to work from now on.

Vote for change is a powerful message after 13 years of any government but the electorate is entitled to ask change to what?

Cameron has to spell out what he stands for and he didn't do that well enough. As Kevin Macguire, the Mirror man, noted wryly: "This late in the game, he's having to explain what he stands for? Something's gone wrong there."

The instinctive Tory game changer, the rabbit out of the hat, would be promising tax cuts. But having made reduction of the national deficit a priority for the last six months it would be policy suicide to go down that route.

But wait a minute, keep the Brown Ale on ice. This is only one poll and a point or two further apart would make it far less dramatic. The average of the most recent survey from each of the accredited companies last week, the Tory lead is eight points. The story in the Ashcroft-funded marginal campaigns could be quite different.

Unless we're jolted out of our beds some morning this week there is a long way to go to an election and a lot more polling and pitfalls on the way.

Brown is in front of Chilcot this Friday. There is a budget to be presented to parliament - a budget, mind, not just a clever, boring one hour speech. Then there are these crucial television debates and another round of economic figures in April.

But even if the UK slips back into recession that still might work for Labour. The more uncertain people are about their future, particularly in the public sector, the less likely they are to take a risk with the Tories.

And there there is trend in all the polls -Tory support is going down like a slowly deflating balloon. Inch by inch Gordon Brown is clawing his way out of the electoral pit that had him down as low as 24% last summer. The Clunking Fist is catching up.

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