Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Ask a Silly Question

Much is being made of the question in the ComRes poll which asks:

Do you think David Cameron should be clearer about his economic policy?

Surprise, surprise, 82% agree. This is one of those questions where you have to think what the answer would have been if the opposite had been asked?

Do you think David Cameron should be fuzzier about his economic policy?

Get my drift? It's a push question.

And while I am at it, I was interested to read Tom Harris reporting...
The only person who seems absolutely convinced beyond doubt that they’re heading to an unambiguous win, if not a landslide, is Iain Dale

Er, shurely shome mishtake. I'd love to know what he bases that on, since for most of 2008 and 2009 I was pontificating about the possibility of a hung parliament. I have NEVER predicted either privately or publicly a Tory landslide.

However, Tom's headline has some truth in it - THE SOUND OF TORY FINGERNAILS BEING BITTEN. I suspect that's nothing compared to the sound of gnashing there will be on election night.

No one denies the polls have narrowed. Instead of a poll rating of 40-44% the Tories are now in the 38-42% band. That isn't necessarily a disaster if the Labour vote stays under 30% - it is the gap which matters, not necessarily the headline figure. And as I never tire of pointing out, you cannot translate a poll into a national swing. You have to look at individual seats.

But I am not blind. The trend in the polls at the moment appears to make a hung parliament more, not less likely. And that, it seems, is the summit of Labour's ambition. They appear reconciled to losing power. There's no strategy, no innovation, no ideas. They merely thrash around with a random new idea of the day, hoping beyond hope that it will get some traction. Today's is electoral reform, which even most of their own MPs oppose.

Where's the vision, Mr Brown? After two and a half years, even your own supporters cannot articulate what it is.


OldSlaughter said...

Problem is Iain. What is the Tory vision?

More of the same but slightly better run?

Blair, Mandy and Campbell pretty much made a list of things they could be beaten with and then jumped to the right of them. In 1997 they gave the electorate a choice between the Tories and everything you like about the Tories but more trendy.
They have been floundering in a sea of short term electioneering and message legislating ever since.

What difference between that and the Cameron/Coulson project?

Lehman collapsed and nobody looked to the politicians for speeches on the work/life balance and hoodie policies, the stage door was left wide open for anybody that was willing to show some honesty, drive and as you say vision.

No blooming wonder the gap is closing.

Childprotector said...

With respect, for both of the main parties it is all about strategy and thrashing around. The more the parties triangulate, the more obvious it is to voters that this is just an electoral game, so it is not surprising that the Tories cannot command decisive support even though this government has run its course. Nor does it help the Conservatives that when pressed, they (in particular Philip Hammond) demonstrate only a superficial grasp of economic management and are keener to retreat to the usual attacks on the Government.

Every General Election seems to endorse the old "Hope over Expectation" maxim. This time, I suspect, polling samples have rumbled the political class and there is not a lot of hope and no expectation.

Tomfiglio said...

Excellent post. Most of us want politicians to tell the truth about the situation, and take the measures necessary to put us on a different track. Cameron's bland vapourings aren't enough.

Tony said...

On economic matters people do like to see consistency of leadership. Many of my acquaintances have remarked over the last 2-3 weeks Cameron has seemed to dither about the economic plight of the country and deviate from his strong medicine prescription. This leaves people uncertain about Cameron's intentions.

Not last minute nerves, is it?

John East said...

I think Call Me Dave has nowhere left to go.

If he continues with his limp Nulab lite conservatism his lead in the polls will continue to drift down. On the otherhand, if he appears to grow a pair, and says it like it is, then no one will believe him.

Even so, over the next few months Cameron will probably be forced into a relaunch. I fear that he is about to discover that you cannot suddenly adopt a moral code and pretend to be a strong principled leader a few weeks before the election with any credibility.

Cameron is now trapped by his past attempts to hug too many hoodies.

Libertarian said...


You have unwittingly hit the nail on the head. The lack of vision that you ascribe to Labour sounds to me identical to what the Tories have to offer. That is why the gap in the polls is so narrow and will continue to get smaller as there isn't really a "fag paper" between them.

A complete failure of the political class.

Iain Dale said...

Golden Balls, any comment you post which contains the insulting description of Lord Ashcroft won't get through. Simples.

Magical_Mist said...

As most political commentators like to stress, this election will be decided in the marginal 'swing seats', an awful lot of which are in England.
It's my belief that Middle England has already made up it's mind which party it wants in power.

Matthew Dear said...

Thrashing around? Random new ideas? Like, for example, a Green Investment Bank? Just the ticket to divert attention from the cuts that won't be made.

Desperate Dan said...

Cameron and Osborne have allowed themselves to become hideously bogged down by a gigantic retinue of hangers-on who are all desperate to influence or make money out of the next government. They've also been stupid enough to believe that policies and political aims are secondary to speech training, spin, PR and dodgy opinion polls. The public are not stupid. We can tell the difference between real men and synthetic clones. I'm sick to death of Phony Tony and the Counterfeits but all Cameron's loathsome advisers want to do is give us more of the same.

Paddy Briggs said...

It's a leading question and no respectable market researcher would allow it to be in a questionnaire.

Goodwin said...

All Cameroon has to do is give a vote on EU membership and give serious undertakings to tackle widespread immigration and benefit fraud. He'd get back traditional Conservative supporters and pull in some new ones besides. None of this is contentious (for conservatives) now is it rocket science.

Eddie said...

Unfortunately, even as a Tory, desperate for a Tory win, I listen to some of the announcements, and then clarifications, with disappointment.

The Tories are just not getting their messages across.

Take the last few days as prime examples... There was Camerons "No swinging cuts", which appeared to go back on previous announcements. It didn't, but would it not have been better to have been saying from the outset, "No swinging cuts, but steps must start immediately to reduce the deficit in ways that will not put the recovery at risk", that way it would have blunted the Labour message of putting the recovery at risk.

Osborne published a paper yesterday about Labours mixed messages - it received scant media coverage, instead Mandelson won all of the column inches about Conservatives mixed messages.

In the 1997 election Labour had a rapid rebuttal unit to counter negative comments and turn them back on the Tories - I do not see the Tories doing the same, and if they are, not to the same effect.

Now it could be argued that the media is looking for bad news stories on the Conservatives, but we must live with that and ensure that the messages are drummed home so hard that they cannot fail to be reported.

But Cameron has failed to land any real punches recently, even at PMQ's. When Brown fails to answer but instead talks of Conservative policies Cameron must highlight the fact that he is not showing leadership as PM, and is failing to even answer questions at PMQ's, that he clearly is embarrassed about Labours record and does not wish to discuss it.

The Conservatives need to be clear amongst themselves about their policies, have a clear message, and the big guns should be hitting the media daily to promote those messages.

Until this happens, Labour will continue their advancement. In doing so they will build momentum.

simon said...

The question should probably have been do you think David Cameron's articulation of his economic policy is very clear/clear/not very clear/completely unclear or similar. But would the answers have been veru different, I wonder.

(Chat up lines for market researchers. Do you come here often/rarely/never?)

Andrew Benton said...

Cameron's sudden vagueness about how soon and deeply he will make cuts has caused a lot of confusion.

I do not believe that the Brits are likely to follow the USA and vote for an empty suit giddy on its own rhetoric.

Unless Cameron spells out what he stands for, I believe voters will drift back to the devil they know.

norman said...

After all these years of Nu Labour and Gordon Brown, I am amazed that we have so many Labour Talibans in our country to want Gordo to practice smoke and mirrors, lies and half truths rule.

Eddie said...

Well further to my previous post, I have just listened to George Osborne's press conference.

In it he announced a list of Business people who would be advising the Tories. No sooner was the conference over, broadcast on BBC News 24, and the BBC announced that they had just heard from Lord Stern, who had stated that he would not be acting as an advisor for any political party, and that whilst he was happy to talk to the Conservatives about their plans, he was also still talking to Labour.

It is mistakes like this that prevent the message that is intended from getting across.

Errors like these will present a picture of a party that is not competent.

Dave and George Jumblie said...

We have no idea what Tory economic policy is, that is the problem, Iain. These kids have neither strategic or tactical nous.

They could easily have covered their comments at the weekend with: "... in light of the awful economic figures and weaker than expected emergence from recession - we are forced to the conclusion that...." but they cannot even grasp that much.

Hamish said...

The reality is that parliamentary democracy is finally on ita way out.
It has been obsolete for the past 20 years, and should by now have been replaced by direct democracy.

Maybe one good thing will come out of the delay in abolishing these pointless talking-shops.
Namely we can go straight to government decision by computer.
Just feed in the parameters of available finance and people's preferences.

Conand said...

I agree with Eddie @ 11:14

Its with that background in mind that I'm going canvassing for The Conservatives this afternoon.
I'm going to enjoy this. :D

(I'm going to wear my hoodie. That usually breaks the ice.)

Elby the Beserk said...

The vision, Mr. Dale? The vision is quite simple - from now until election day I will continue to promise VAST sums of taxpayers money to be spent in marginal Labour constituencies and on shoring up our core vote.

Why on earth do you think I announced we would be building two more aircraft carriers the other day, for the third time? Why on earth do you think that all the out-of-town cabinet meetings have taken place in marginal constituencies.

God help us if they do get back in again. And I don't believe in God, but we will for sure need his or her help.

Elby the Beserk said...

@OldSlaughter said...

Problem is Iain. What is the Tory vision?
'Tis true - but I have to point out that one of the reasons Brown gave for bottling the 07 election was that he needed time to "articulate his vision".

We are still waiting...

Elby the Beserk said...


i will admit to voting Labour from my first vote in 1970 to Iraq. Yes, I did wear Toynbee's proverbial nosepeg to elect Blair.

I was thinking of voting Tory this time, as Labour need to be put down - this is not the gently socialist Labour party of old, that - yes, always fucked the economy - but also said NO to Vietnam, and created the OU; had Cameron said - we will have a referendum on the EU, I would have voted Tory. That, and the ever-increasing drift to a blue rinsed New Tory lite means I won't.

I'll be voting Lib Dem - yes, I know, the EU as well; but we have an excellent sitting Lib Dem MP, and I have no problems with voting for him.

Frankly, the whole system is buggered, starting at its core - the party system. Who do they represent? - not me, that's for sure.

Mark M said...

No vision, yet 30%+ are still going to vote for them. You CAN fool some of the people all of the time. And the rest I suppose you can always pick up a few votes bribing them with their own money.

Desperate Dan said...

Recent polls have asked: Who do you trust most to manage the economy Labour or Conservative? The majority have said Conservative.
The loaded questions in the Indy poll give polling a bad name. If polling organisations don't watch out they'll be seen as no less trustworthy than Labour politicians - which would make them worthless.

Gerry57 said...

I'd like to see a poll for just England and Wales. Scotland is a non-starter for the Tories anyway. Many Scots are obviously very happy with a life expectancy of 54 (Glasgow).

Roger said...

The problem is that we have two oppositions and no government. Thus the Tories are fighting a shadow instead of focusing on what they see as the critical issues facing Britain psot election.

Whilst the economy is vital we are looking for more than a bit better financial stewardship. There has to be a fundamental piece of political philosophy that divides Conservative from Labour and at the moment I can't see what it is.

Why can't Cameron stake out a central plank that provides a basis for all theit policy announcements

The Random Punter said...

While I agree that the Independent poll's questioning and reporting leaves something to be desired, Iain, do you not feel a sense of despair that Cameron and Osborne keep side-footing balls wide of the open goals that Labour keep presenting to them.

Why is Cameron not setting out the dividing lines between the Conservatives and Labour. Why, in a time when the majority of voters feel cuts are the right way forward, does he rule out cuts and talk about spending? Why does he continue to espouse his green credentials at a time when confidence in the Global Warming movement is at an all time low? Where is his outrage at the erosion of civil liberties? All of this conservative (small c) territory that resonates with the public at large.

Sad to say, Cameron sounds as much of a broken record as Brown at the moment. Personally, I'll vote conservative, but my overriding motive for doing so is that they can't be any worse than Labour. If his performance recently's anything to go by, they won't be much better either.

And as for Osborne, he may well be ahead of Brown/Darling on economic competence by default, but he's still lagging behind Vince Cable in public opinion. He has had an opportunity to take the lead on the economy and squandered it. His policies have attracted criticism from good economists (even conservative - again small "c" - ones like Tim Worstall). Osborne is a talented politician and by all accounts an excellent local MP, but he does not fill the public with any confidence that he can run an economy, especially one as precarious as ours.

It's time to move Osborne aside and install Ken Clarke as Shadow Chancellor. He may not be every Tory's cup of tea, but there's an election to win, which will be centred around the economy. And Ken has been there, done it, and been successful, whereas Osborne increasingly looks like a rabbit in headlights.

The Random Punter said...

One further question for you all out there:

If the Conservatives fail to win this election, will David Cameron go down as one of the worst leaders the party has ever had?

VickyK86 said...

A hung parliament is a multi supported government according to www.charter2010.co.uk . I think this group is right in saying that more parties need to address and inform the public of what they would do in the case of a hung parliament. Eight consecutive polls now suggest a hung parliament will occur, surely its time that politicians let us know what they will do in the case of a hung parliament?

trevorsden said...

The 'vision' depends on minute disparities of economic policy. Life is not like 1979 where the dead were no being buried and the unions were trying to run the country.

The country is awash in a sea of debt, and Gordon is pretending it is easy to pay it back, the the recession is over and growth will make life easy.

Its all lies of course but can you prove it?

And the latest poll shows tories and libdems as unchanged so where have labours 2 points come from? BNP/UKIP ??

trevorsden said...

John East - 'Dave' never said call me Dave' and Tony never said call me Tony. In fact the only prime minister to say call me Gordon, was Brown ...

Look back at history. For the Tories to get a majority on UNS - will take a swing of eye watering epic proportions.

thats why the tories are spending ashcrofts money in the marginals.

Filter said...

Expect 2010 to be landmark year. We are heading for a hung parliament.

The Liberal Democrats will hold the balance of power and with Brown's promise of a referendum on electoral reform, that deal is done.

Labour have little to offer but I'm afraid the Conservatives have no clear strategy either. Voters are sick and tired of the vacuous promises, childish mud-slinging and the general grubbiness of politics in this country.

Never has there been a greater need for a box marked 'none of the above' on voting papers.

Unsworth said...

@ Paddy Briggs

"It's a leading question and no respectable market researcher would allow it to be in a questionnaire."

Well, yes. But are we not seeing the demise of the independence of research in all quarters?

John said...

The populous momentum and support for Scott Brown is liberating. He was elected by the most liberal of states, not hand-picked by the party. Scott Brown is the Tea Party candidate for president. http://ScottBrownForPresident.com is giving away free bumper stickers while supplies last...the movement is in full-swing.

ScotsToryB said...


Is that the same Stern of The Report? If so any Govt. can do without his far-sighted inabilities. The man is to fairness what Brown is to eloquence. The Stern report has
been so traduced as to be meaningless.
What concerns me, if what you say means anything(not a put down) is that if the Tories expect to rely on quasi-experts like him we are knackered before we even begin.
I have argued elsewhere what you say about rapid rebuttal etc., many times. It is so effen obvious that every time a Socialist tap-dripper starts their poisonous diatribe it should be shot down with no compassion and no guilt about the effect. War can only
be won by outgunning the enemy and make no mistake, they must be treated as such.
There is no place for the benefit of the doubt(they are only Socialists so be gentle with them...)they have to be unceremoniously put in their place(go on Mandy: tell me
that's about class warfare and I'll show you my credentials without ever having to see
yours; as and when you can compare your 'signing on' with the Paymaster General with my signing on at the Jobcentre?).
You have to fight fire with more powerful incendiaries. Spin with fact and acid spin.

Start the answer with 'I expect the(token?)Socialist to try to talk over me so I shall be brief. 'The Socialist has already lost the argument so...'

It. is. not. difficult.

Start every statement by 'The Socialist says'. Or a variant: 'Socialism means', Socialism expects(that is a good one. It can be easily expanded on). Or the killer: without Socialism there would only be a very rich country that can afford to look after it's more deserving people.

Do you want me to repeat that?

Vote for Socialists if you cannot think.


John said...

The chances of anything but a Conservative Government even in a hung Parliament are pretty good. The Lib Dems may not be able to put anyone but the Tories into power either on their own or as a minority. But the Conservatives might do better not to let mandelson rattle their cage and set out a clear four year economic strategy, making the obvious point that the launch date will depend on coming clearly out of recession. What Osborne has said makes some sense, but without more detail, he is open to the charge that he does not know how to deliver. Incidentally have I missed something. Labour is cutting already - £20 billion so-called efficiency savings in the NHS and very real cuts to the Universities. Anything that GO identifies is over and on top of these and Labour is not really waiting on the recovery despite the rhetoric.

javelin said...

Perhaps Cameron should drop WACKY ZAKY and his vote blue get green taxes line. The IPCC us now discredited and Cameron will look like a fool in 2 years time with lots of discredited taxes.

MalcolmCog said...

I'm paying 12 quid for 12sbourne hours internet access at this here hotel, and most entertaining sites are this one, Tory Bear and Guido ! (no porn, really, none whatsover).
12 quid ! I have been at less famous hotels and had free wifi !
Oh, I'm quite worried over the seeming lack of economic direction from Cameron and Osbourne, what is the Tory response to Brown's 'your vote is graded according to our idea of whichever way you vote, we win' plan ?

Tim Worstall said...

"His policies have attracted criticism from good economists (even conservative - again small "c" - ones like Tim Worstall). "

It's extremely gratifying to be described as a "good economst" but the truth is I'm not an economist. I've no advanced degrees in the subject and have never worked as one (and never will): I'm an interested amateur no more.

As to the (small c) conservative I really regard myself as a liberal even if it is of the classical kind....

DespairingLiberal said...

Will the Ulster Unionist thing make a difference in the event of a hung Parliament? And if so, on Tory policies? And what about the new UUP / DUP tie-up?

Expect less tolerance towards minorities for example. And a less deferential attitude to Vatican interventions!

golden_balls said...


you said

"Golden Balls, any comment you post which contains the insulting description of Lord Ashcroft won't get through. Simples"

could you explain how my comment was insulting to Lord Ashcroft ?

Just for my own curiosity if nothing else.

fair enough its your blog but it does show you to be abit trigger happy when it comes to censoring peoples opinions.

Unsworth said...


Does this 'discussion' between golden_bollox and you about Ashcroft really have to be published here? Or is there some significance? At this juncture it seems way off topic.

Still, your blog, your rules, I think. Even so, we have seen a few monomaniacs here in the past.

DespairingLiberal said...

According to you Unsworth, anyone is a "monomaniac" who disagrees with Tory policies, but not just any old Tory policies, the _most_ extremely right-wing ones oh and plus any discussion of the sources of Tory finance oh yes and not forgetting any comment whatever that is adverse to the viewpoint of your good self. Ho hum.

So what was the comment on Lord Ashcroft's funding of the Tory election? Was it to do with what Lord A of Belize will be expecting in return for all this largesse?

My word verification was "hoons"!

golden_balls said...

I have no idea why comments regarding Lord Ashcroft are being censored well my comments at least.

I know on three seperate occasions iain has decided my comments shouldn't be published. I didn't use any vulgar language or accuse him of any illegality.

I quite like iain other than being a Tory he's an ok guy or seems it.
A bit trigger happy with the delete comment button though.

This can either be published or not iain it doesn't add anything to the post.

Iain Dale said...

Goldenballs, you are being disingenuous. You know why the comment was deleted and are just playing the hurt little innocent.

I very rarely delete comments actually.

golden_balls said...

"I very rarely delete comments actually"

I wouldn't diasgree with that iain

thats why i was suprised when you did delete those comments

Lord Ashcroft shouldn't be protected from debate or from questions that need answering.

33 days and counting.

Unsworth said...

Ah, Desperate Liberal. Welcome back. How's the 'treatment' coming along? The old personal attack again, eh? You really ought to take some more medication.

You see, anyone with half a brain ought to be able to argue a case on its merits, something which you always fail to do. Each time I have contradicted your point of view, rather than put up a decent justification you've merely resorted to slur - as you are doing yet again. So typical of the Lefties and Fifth Columnists.

You don't like what I say? Well put up your counter-argument. Now, what's the relevance of your current lunatic blathering to Iain's original post?