Both the YouGov and the MORI polls will darken the gloom that will hang over the Tory spring conference at the weekend. All the polling organisations, including Angus Reed, are showing a narrowing Tory lead. To put this context, when the Tories met last spring they were 18% ahead of Labour.
There is no need to revisit the reasons, but this is a failure for David Cameron and the team that surrounds him. A successful opposition leader, with all that has been happening on the other side of the despatch box over many months, should have ‘sealed the deal’ by now. The Ming vase that Blair effortlessly held in 1997, and was handed to Cameron on a gold plate, has been smashed. Our Dave may still stagger over the line, but it shouldn't have been like this. It was not what was foretold.
Even if Ashcroft’s money is working in the marginals, and there is evidence that it has, the national mood will have its effect in those seats.
James Forsyth kindly highlighted the crisis that is clearly gripping the Tory party. One interesting point is that David Cameron wasn't at the meeting that the article mentions, which posed lots of unanswered questions as to why the party was doing so badly. Perhaps a fictional conversation would help:
A: How did the meeting go?
B: Many questions but no answers.
A: Who was there?
B: Everybody but the person who matters.
A: That tells you all you need to know.
It is that lack of direction that does matter. Team Cameron are clearly not working as one. What is the point in having a meeting like this when the team captain is somewhere else?
Also, Forsyth mentions that Hague should be used more effectively, but there is no mention of Ken Clarke, who the public can identify with and is listened to. He is also a match for Peter Mandelson.
Once a sense of drift sets in and morale starts to plummet, it’s very difficult regain the initiative, because you have handed this to your opponents on a plate, which is what is happening at present.
Team Cameron need to give clear and concise messages that people can identify with and more importantly remember.
The national mood doesn't change overnight, unless there is a seismic event like the death of Diana. It happens over a period of time.
And there is precious little team left for Team Cameron to get the toothpaste back in the tube.