Monday, 1 March 2010

Is the political narrative changing?

For me the big news of the weekend was not Wayne Bridges’ “historic” snubbing of John Terry’s handshake (in my informal league table of great handshake snubs I rated it second only to US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles’ snubbing of Chinese Premier Chou En Lai’s hand at the Geneva Conference in 1954) but the Sunday Times YouGov poll which gave the Conservatives a mere 2 per cent poll lead.

YouGov have a reputation for accuracy, but even if you take this as rogue poll, the evidence suggests that the Tory poll lead has declined dramatically over the last few months. What is going on?

I think there could be a number of factors. Firstly, it could be that the Government is getting some credit for bringing the country through the economic crisis. Last week’s numbers which showed the economy had grown by 0.3 per cent compared to the forecast 0.1 per cent will have been like a dagger to the heart of Team Cameron. On a related note, 65 top economists publicly writing a letter denouncing Tory economic policy will not have done them any good either.

Secondly, it would appear that the cliché that Dave has “not sealed the deal” is true. I asked my wife last night what she thought of Cameron and was given a succinct answer straight from the heart of Middle England. “I don’t know what he stands for.”

Thirdly, I wonder whether all this beating up on Brown (accusations of bullying, tantrums etc) is actually having the opposite effect from the one you would expect. I read an excerpt from Andrew Rawnsley’s book in last week’s Observer and recognised the description was not of a bully, but of a man failing to cope with the demands of the job, which in turn demands sympathy not revulsion. Does all this beating up on Gordon somehow offend the British sense of fair play?

Alastair Campbell used to talk about story narrative. That narrative has been stuck in one direction for the last eighteen months, namely that the country is being led by a tired, out of ideas Government led by a socially awkward loser. If that narrative is now beginning to turn and the public and media are taking a long hard look at the Conservative Party then this election campaign may have one or two turns left yet.


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