Polls are the junk food of journalism. They are a cheap(ish) way of guaranteeing a front page lead and (provided it has a suitably negative headline about Labour) a sombre pick up on the morning reviews of the papers. But of course with every passing poll and every passing headline, it gets harder and harder to generate something ever more cataclysmic to justify the fat cheque to ICM, Mori or YouGov.
So, penetrating the joy of the Oscars, and Britain’s fabulous success there, the Guardian pops up with ‘Anyone but Brown – poll blow for PM.’ Oh come on, surely you can do better than that. Poll blow!! I mean, there have been so many of those you can feel the tiredness in the hand of the headline writer as he pens it. ‘Anyone but Brown…’ ok, that’s at least trying a bit harder, but it still feels a bit, well, straining for attention that isn’t quite merited.
Funnily enough I was doing an interview with The Guardian yesterday, as I may have told you. Decca Aitkenhead, she of the Monday morning interview, said she wanted to ‘honour’ my website (I can’t wait to see what that entails). And when we got on to politics, she kept trying to get me to say Labour was basically bollocksed because the Tories have been so far ahead in the polls for so long. ‘Look at the polls,’ she kept saying ‘they’re consistently twenty points ahead.’
But they’re not.
There in the Guardian today, they are twelve points ahead. Now think about it – we have had the most sustained period of economic bad news any of us can remember. The country has had to borrow unprecedented sums of money. There have been huge redundancies made by high profile employers. There has been talk of plots and disloyalty within the Cabinet as people wait for Gordon to fall. We’ve even had stories of police cutting numbers, of the BNP rising, of rows over Post Office and pensions, of torture, of civil liberties being eroded, of ministers taking too much in allowances, on and on has gone the diet of news that is bad for the government.
But take a closer look at that poll and what does it say – Tories down 2, Labour down two, Lib Dems up 2. If I were a Tory (a bit like saying if I were a Blackburn Rovers fan or a Martian, but bear with me) I would be asking myself ‘how on earth are we only twelve points ahead? And how in God’s name has our support managed to go DOWN in recent weeks?’
Far be it from me to offer them any advice, but I think they may find the answer in the public sensing something really quite unpleasant about their strategy. It is a strategy purely based on exploitation of Labour’s difficulties, not rooted in an analysis of the country and policy ideas to take it in a different direction.
Has Cameron said anything remotely worth listening to in recent days? No, and until he does, he will not seal the deal with the country, and Labour remain in the fight.