23 January 2010

Cameron and the Ming vase

What next.  Brown or Cameron?  We will go for Cameron.  Brown is a complex subject, intertwined with Blair and the little display of how to it that the three-times-election-winner will demonstrate on Friday.  We will come back to this.

Let us rewind the clock to the end of December when the New Statesman published an article by Peter Kellner on what was really going on out there in the places that matter, the marginal seats:

They [the Tories] need an 11-point lead to secure an overall majority. That figure assumes that the national swing is reflected in the marginal seats the Tories are targeting. There is some evidence - such as a recent YouGov/Telegraph poll in northern Labour marginals - that the Tories will achieve a higher swing in these seats. Why? Tactical anti-Tory voting, which has benefited Labour in key seats over the past three elections, may start to unwind. If the Tories secure a 9-point lead, they will probably achieve an overall majority. All recent polls bar two have shown them achieving this, so it is stretching things to say: "Some recent polls have shown them falling short of this goal.

Then, Kellner deals with the possibility of Labour regaining ground as the election approaches:

This used to be true, but not for the past 20 years. The picture is complicated by the way all the polls overstated Labour's support in 1992, and most did in 1997 and 2001. If we correct the data to allow for the polls' errors, we find that there was no signi­ficant government recovery ahead of the last four general elections. As those personal finance ads say, past performance is not a reliable guide to future behaviour. Maybe Labour will gain ground this time. My point is that it cannot be assumed this will happen automatically. Something must occur to make it happen.

Well, the something that must occur didn't thanks to the Cabinet.  We will leave that substantial matter to one side for the moment.  It is the point that Kellner makes about marginal seats that sticks, because that is where the election is won or lost.

Now wind the clock forward to yesterday and the penny eventually drops over at PoliticalBetting.  Paul Waugh, when he is not busying himself with all matters Chilcot, picks up on this point.  So, it would appear that Cameron has done his homework on the marriage debate and is pushing his policy, muddled though it is, in the seats where the Tories will benefit.

Now, we come to Matthew Parris’s piece in today’s Times:

The Conservative Leader must look and sound like a Prime Minister. That means no more cheap mockery of Gordon Brown.

A similar point to the one made by Iain Martin:

At PMQs Cameron should cut out the jokes (unless they are top notch) and focus on a forensic deconstruction of a Brown position. Of course he needs strong rhetorical flourishes to create some drama toward the end, but they would be more likely to connect if his entire contribution was prime ministerial in tone.

Cameron has to got demonstrate that he is the Prime Minister-in-waiting and allay the doubts that he a lightweight and not up the job.  He is not resonating with the public in the same way that Blair did in the lead up to 1997 but with Brown in post this matters little.

Yes, Cameron is making the odd mistake (there is that poster) but they are small matters compared to the one the Cabinet made in mid-January.  He still holds the Ming vase that Blair had no difficultly with because, thanks to the Labour party, he is walking on a rubber floor at present rather than a marble surface.

Events could change.  Labour may get its act together on the economy, but with Balls (egged on by Brown) and Darling pushing in opposite directions that is doubtful.

All Cameron has to do is smile, nod and wave and not get drawn into the game that Labour wants him to play.

The media want the polls to narrow because then there is story and an election campaign that may make a difference.  It is Cameron's job to ensure that this doesn't happen.

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