09 March 2010

Dave, will it be alright on the night?

Monday evening started off well enough.  There was a fair portrait of Cameron by Andrew Rawnsley on Channel 4.  Then, Cameron pops up on the news to defend himself over the Ashcroft saga, presumably in the hope that it will now fade away.  There has to be some doubt that will happen as secret papers on Ashcroft will be released next week, ahead of an investigation by a Commons committee.

Then we come to the Populus poll of marginal seats that is hardily good news for Team Cameron, whichever way it is cut.  Peter Riddell has this to say:

Many voters still have doubts about the Tories. The poll shows that in the key marginals 41 per cent of all voters, and 45 per cent of women, believe that it is “time for a change” but are not sure the change should be to the Conservatives.

On the Ashcroft saga:

The row over the tax status of Lord Ashcroft, the Tory deputy chairman, has damaged the party. Of the 68 per cent who said that they had followed the story quite closely or even vaguely, some 28 per cent — including 10 per cent of Tories — said that it had made their overall view of the party less favourable.

But, there is one favourable bit of news:

Populus repeated a question that proved revealing in the 2008 US presidential campaign, on whether change or experience was needed most. In the US, the margin for change over experience was about 2 to 1, highlighting Barack Obama’s edge over John McCain. In Britain, 56 per cent favour change and 40 per cent experience.

So, we could conclude that so long as Cameron ups his game and the campaign itself goes rather better than the Tories efforts to date, everything will be OK.

Adam Boulton certainly seems to think so.  He suggests Cameron is a “late finisher”, as his biography to date indicates:

He was an average schoolboy at Eton but ended by winning a Scholarship to Oxford.  At university he behaved like any other braying Bullingdon Club toff but, unusually, finished with a first class PPE degree.

In politics he was remarkable only for his unremarkableness while a special advisor and Tory worker. Then he earned few plaudits during a stint in business for Carlton Communications. 

Most observers, including me, had written Cameron off by the time the leadership campaign started after the summer holidays in 2005.  And then in a late spurt Cameron surprised us all.

Up to a point, Lord Copper.  The next few weeks is not a schoolboy outing for novices.  This is the deadly game of grown-up politics for men.  It’s more than Cameron's appeal, but whether the Tories have the right policies and the party has changed.

Labour are fully aware that the Tory party are totally dependent on Cameron.  They also know that the electorate don’t want ‘five more years of Gordon Brown’. 

Mandelson & Co are not going wait around in the hope that Brown outwits Cameron in the TV debates.  What Labour’s election winning team will do is undercut Cameron ahead of the election campaign with policies to wrong foot the Tories, tackle the deficit and keep the patient happy.  For that they have a weapon at the disposal and it is called the Budget.

This election is more than about change and the appeal of two politicians.  It is about which party can sell the bitter pills that the voters will have to swallow after the election.

There is little evidence to date that Doctor Cameron has prescribed the right medicine.

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  1. It occurred to me that Cameron may well have an election plan already, a well-planned 'grid' of policy announcements. If so, he would do well to sit on it and keep his powder dry until the campaign proper. It's all about momentum, easily lost, as both Tories and Labour have shown in the recent ebb and flow of public opinion. But now is not the time.

    Kampfner jumping ship from Lab to Lib might upset the chattering classes a little....

  2. Kampfner is a non-event. Nobody knows who he is.

    No doubt, Cameron does have a cunning pan, but will it be good enough?

  3. If Cameron plays his cards now, he will have nothing left in a few weeks when the election is called and the announcements are forgotten.

    Labour have played a good game - up until Ashcroft which has become a blind alley and a bizarre fixation - but they will be in trouble once the SpAds pack up their desks and leave Whitehall behind, to rely on an uncertain party machine.

    No-one wants Brown, but they need a reason to want Cameron, and he has yet to deliver this.