Sunday, December 14, 2008

Labour cuts Tories' poll lead to a single point.

David Cameron has been hoping, by opposing Gordon Brown's attempts to intervene and stave off recession, that he might have found an area of difference between himself and Brown to exploit before the next election. Brown has, rightly, defined Cameron's attitude as a "do nothing" policy, as Cameron is bizarrely insisting that the markets must be allowed to run their course and the government must not intervene.

It is a policy which is at odds with almost every other western government and yet it is the course which Cameron has chosen.

Recent opinion polls are showing that it is not a course in which the public have any faith.

David Cameron's double-digit lead has been whittled down to a single point in the space of a month, despite the first significant criticisms last week of the Prime Minister's £20bn "fiscal stimulus" rescue plan.

The ComRes survey shows that 37 per cent of those polled said they planned to vote Tory at the next election. The level of Tory support is six points down on the figure recorded in a similar survey a month ago.

At the same time, Labour support has risen four points to 36 per cent, closing the Tory lead from 11 points to one. Labour support has increased particularly sharply among the bottom social group DE, where a Tory lead has been transformed into a 20-point Labour advantage in four weeks.

This is a catastrophe for Cameron and, as I said at the time, it is happening because he is embracing what sounds like a Thatcherite agenda, stating that he would rather cut social programmes than raise taxes. I said at the time of Darling's budget that the public had, for the first time in many years, a very clear choice of styles between Labour and the Conservatives. I thought that Cameron was paying a very dangerous game and that the election was his to lose.

The most recent figures suggest that this is exactly what he is doing.

Despite Labour's continuing overall deficit, the figures would deliver a 20-seat majority for Mr Brown if reproduced at a general election.

"We have not convinced everyone yet, but I think this proves we have turned a corner," a senior Labour minister said of the poll last night. "It is pleasing that people appreciate the fact that Gordon has taken action when other people preferred to sit on their hands, and that has given the UK the best chance of emerging from this downturn as quickly as possible."

Of course, Brown's intervention could yet turn pear shaped, but the public are certainly supporting someone who is attempting to avoid an economic downturn rather than back the guy who says we'll cut public programmes and let the market do as it will.

Perhaps Cameron is unaware that public confidence in the power of the market to decide has been shaken by recent events, perhaps he will be surprised that the God which the conservatives have long worshiped is currently out of favour, but he is about to find out that the rest of us do not share his desire to let markets decide our future as, so often when that happens, we get shafted.

Cameron was doing very well until events demanded that he show his cards. And what he has shown us is old fashioned conservatism where social programmes are sacrificed for tax cuts.

That nonsense has been out of favour since the day Blair first took office. The public learned during the years of Thatcher and Major that, unless one is willing to pay for social programmes, then one loses them.

Cameron has bet the house that the public will be willing to let some programmes go. I believe he has bet on the wrong horse.

The memory of Thatcher's devastation of the health service and the decade it took Labour to begin fixing it is too fresh in the memory for Cameron to get away with this kind of nonsense.

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