Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hung parliament looms as Tory support crumbles.

When The National Anti-bullying Helpline charity announced that staff at Number Ten had complained about being bullied, everyone assumed that this was confirmation of the claims made in Andrew Rawnsley's book that Gordon Brown was a bully.

It hasn't quite worked out like that.

One of the Tory party's best known MPs, Ann Widdecombe, quit as a patron of the National Bullying Helpline, the charity which on Sunday sparked a storm at Westminster when its founder, Christine Pratt, entered the political fray, saying she had received four complaints of bullying from No 10 staff.

Last night the charity was close to implosion as other patrons also resigned, saying Pratt had acted unethically. Among those who quit were the television presenter Sarah Cawood and the workplace stress expert Cary Cooper. There were also reports that Tory councillor for Hillingdon Mary O'Connor resigned.

The helpline withdrew any suggestion that the complaints involved Brown, and had to fend off criticism that it had close ties to the Conservative party.

I listened yesterday as Pratt suddenly announced that none of the complaints her charity had received had concerned Gordon Brown, which was not something one could possibly have gleaned from the lurid headlines which her intervention had contributed to, and suddenly her deciding to speak out now appeared more politically motivated than ever.

In an interview in the Economist, Brown gave his first direct response since Rawnsley's allegations were published. "The cabinet secretary has made it clear that he's had no inquiries, there's been no reprimand, there's been no private message to me ... (The) story is completely wrong," Brown said.

David Cameron and the Tories have leapt on this story as proof that Brown is unfit for office.
William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, said the allegations proved Brown was not "cut out for the job". He said on Sky News: "I don't think he has ever really shown that he can lead a happy team and maybe if there is truth in any of these allegations, that's part of the reason why."
However, this story is not the only thing that's crumbling if recent opinion polls are to be believed.

Support for David Cameron's Conservative party has crumbled to its lowest point for nearly two years, according to the latest monthly Guardian/ICM poll, leaving Britain on course for a hung parliament at the coming general election.

With no more than three months to go until polling day, the Conservatives have fallen to 37%, down three points on last month's Guardian/ICM poll and down two on another ICM poll earlier this month.

The party has not fallen so low in an ICM poll since the tail-end of the banking crisis, last falling to 37% in February 2008.

I detect a certain desperation when Cameron leaps on to this kind of story. I can sense his fear that the election is slipping away, and can't help but see him as a political opportunist who has no vision to sell, so he spends all his time looking for faults in his opponent. After all, Cameron has come this far in the polls simply because he is not Gordon Brown; and as the election nears, one can sense his confusion that this is no longer enough to have him elected.

Labour also claims that its personal polling of Cameron shows he is seen as "too shrill, divisive and not speaking for Britain any longer". Labour claims it is succeeding in portraying Cameron as a man running a concealment strategy, caught between his branding and his beliefs.

I still feel sure that the Tories will win the next election, but have been amazed at the way Cameron has crumbled the nearer we get to it.

Having enjoyed such terrific success in the polls by saying nothing, Cameron seems baffled that the British public are now asking just what exactly it is that he intends to do. But, rather than set out a vision of Tory policies, Cameron finds himself leaping over any story which shows Gordon Brown in a bad light.

It's a tactic which might very well backfire. I remember another election in which the occupant of Downing Street was guaranteed to lose. Every poll indicated that this was on the cards, but, on the day, John Major - another unelected leader who had taken over from a Prime Minister who had stepped down - prevailed and Neil Kinnock lost.

Cameron must do more than simply not be Gordon Brown, for the people might decide in such circumstances that it's better to choose the devil they know.

Click here for full article.


Geoffrey Woollard said...

No Conservative seat is safe this time. You should hear what people are saying on the doorsteps in South East Cambridgeshire. It's unreapeatable!

Kel said...

If they are not safe in South East Cambridgeshire, then they are not safe anywhere.