Saturday, April 17, 2010

Flat Souffles & the Return of the Weeble

Tonight, for the first time in the best part of a century, the LibDems top an opinion poll. A BPIX poll for the Mail on Sunday puts them one point ahead of the Conservatives.

Lib 32
Con 31
Lab 28

All the other Sunday newspaper polls (see HERE on ConHome) also show the LibDems with a stonking increase on support. They've certainly got what George Bush Senior used to call "The Big Mo". But the big question we're all asking, is it sustainable or will their poll lead disappear like a flat souffle as the campaign wears on.

Buggered if I know, to be honest.

As someone wrote earlier today, it's as if normal politics has come to an end and we have entered another wave of post Diana mass hysteria. It defies logic, but it seems now that everybody loves Nick!

On Thursday night I said it wasn't really worth looking at the polls until Sunday or Monday. Well, we're at Sunday and I really wish I wasn't looking at the polls. But we have to deal with things as they are and not how we might wish them to be.

If the Tories go on to win, I have no doubt that in the post election books, this will be written up as the Wobbly Weekend in the Tory campaign. It truly is 'squeaky bum time', as Sir Alex Ferguson might put it. The test of a good campaign is how it transcends this sort of setback - and let's agree, it is a setback. I purposely haven't phoned contacts at CCHQ or any Shadow Ministers because I think it's going to be more interesting just to observe how they all react and what changes in the Tory campaign.

I suspect the debate will be between those who think nothing should change, and that we should all Keep Calm & Carry On, and those who think that the Clegg phenomenon needs to be reacted to.

I tend to belong in the first camp. No one should panic. The campaign strategy will need to be tweaked, but not abandoned.

What people need to remember about David Cameron is that he is always at his best when his back is against the wall. He's amazingly resilient. Older readers will remember me dubbing him a 'weeble' - on the basis that weebles wobble but they don't fall down.*

You are about to see evidence of that. Mark my words.

* For foreign readers, that is a reference to a TV advert in the 1980s for a kid's toy.

48 comments:

northernheckler said...

I tend to agree with most of this, but not sure why you think DC is at his best when his back's been against the wall.

When has his back ever been against the wall ? He's had a pretty easy ride since he became leader as far as I can see.

Irene said...

It's all a load of hype!

Oldrightie said...

I rather agree with you on this. Check out the reality of my slogan, "Vote yellow get Brown". That should do it.

Silent Hunter said...

ain:

You don't think it might have something to do with the complete disdain that the two major parties treat the electorate?

How many times have we tried Tweedle Dum followed by Tweedle Dee and look where it has got us.

Time for a change.

A real change; not a faux change.

Tachybaptus said...

But is he the lesser of two weebles?

Bonetired said...

Its X Factor politics ... image is everything but no substance.

simon said...

I'd imagine the Libs will fall back from these giddy heights and how far they fall will depend in part on the next two debates.

But Clegg has taken some of the 'young pretender' lustre from Cameron. It may not be fair but Cameron has started to look rather old and establishment by comparison. These are the risks of running a personality-led, presidential-style campaign.

Brown was never in the fresh-faced game, so Clegg's youthful appeal is less damaging to him.

Jake said...

I agree with Simon that this will be the high point for the LibDems and it will be all down hill from now on. It's just a question of the rate of decline between now and polling day.
I can't believe that so many people can have changed there minds after one TV debate. Okay, he came over well but it wasn't that impressive a performance.

Ronnie Soak said...

I am with Silent hunter on this, 100%
"No question now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which." (George Orwell, Animal farm)Sums up exactly the situation in Politics right now. Time for a real change.

Peter said...

I think the Conservative voters will return to the fold, especially if Cameron does well in the last two TV debates, but can Labour hold on to their voters?
This could result in a squeeze with Labour loosing out big time.

wild said...

Liberal Democrat politicians and Labour Party politicians (like all members of the Leftist establishment) believe that voters are stupid, and therefore need to be directed - by themselves needless to add.

The Conservative Party on the other hand believes that the electorate have common sense, and therefore should be given the freedom to make decisions about their own lives - at the expense of Whitehall and Brussels.

It is a philosophical difference.

Because I trust the British people. I believe that they will not want the Labour Party in power for another five years, and so they will not vote either Labour or Liberal Democrat in sufficient numbers for the Labour Party to be kept in power.

Of course all the polls are against me, but we shall see.

richard.blogger said...

Iain, the first rule of polls is "take the error into account". The error is typically +/-2 so Lib 32, Con 31, Lab 28 mean that within the error there really isn't much in it: they are all the same. However, the really important point is the swing.

ICM Cons -3, Lab -2, LD +7
ComRes Cons -4, Lab -2, LD +8
BPIX Cons -7, Lab -3, LD +12
YouGov Cons nc, Lab +2, LD -1

Do you notice? Take the error into account. In effect Labour is the same "within the error", the Conservatives are down, LibDems are up. (The BPIX seems to be an outlier.) In effect Clegg is taking votes from Cameron.

It looks like Cameron has a big choice to make. Does he try to woo LibDem voters (so far "vote LD get lab" has not been effective), or will he look to his right to the people who really would love to vote Conservative but will not because Cameron has no promise of an EU referendum?

Remember that the next leaders' debate is on international affairs. Think of the effect of Cameron using that to announce an EU referendum?

CF said...

Whats the big surprise? There was a televised debate between the leaders. Clegg was brilliant, Cameron was like a stunned rbbit in headlights, and Brown was his usual low grade liability self. So, Clegg came out best and undecided / lukewarm voters switched to him because he cam across as most honest - and God knows we need an honest leader right now. For the record, I'm a Tory - but I know when Cameron underperforms and the debate was one of those occasions. Get over it and move on.

golden_balls said...

I see your post suggesting the LD upsurge would take votes from Labour and give the Tories a thumping majority was a little off iain.

Wheres Unsworth ? He's been very quiet recently !!

Craig Ranapia said...

Ithink the only response Clegg and the LibDems need is a little serious scrutiny of their policies -- because the harder you look, the sweet cruchy shell covers some very bitter centers indeed.

Clegg is going to discover that being the political flavour of the month does have its downside.

Jacqueline said...

@CF: No, Clegg was not brilliant. It isn't brilliant to make a virtue out of the fact that British voters have not entrusted his party to govern the country for longer than most voters have been alive (GB and DC are "the same" only because they share a history of their parties having been in government). And it isn't a sign of brilliance to be able to write down the names of all questioners and then name check them in your closing address. It isn't a sign of brilliance to repeat your argument rather than develop it when you get to have a second chance to address a topic. It isn't a sign of brilliance to look into the camera rather than at the audience.

DC's problem with the debates is simply that he could well end up as PM and will have to deliver what he promises. So he cannot promise too much. Clegg's pronouncements can be an open-ended "wish list", an opening gambit for future negotiation in the event of a hung Parliament, which, on the evidence of Thursday evening is all that GB is hoping for.

Barnsley Bill said...

Iain, sadly we are much older than that. The weebles were a seventies must have toy!

norman said...

All this reminds me of elections in India. I am of some Indian heritage and polls there normally swing like we see them here today, straight trebling of figure for a party as soon as a famous cricketer endorses that party leader or a famous bollywood actor says he supports that party. As a computer scientist and some one interested in sampling statistics, for me sampling there is a nightmare and many better experts have simply given up! One friend phoned me from there to ask whether Britain has caught the "Indian polling disease"too! There he heard that one X-factor-like exposure to the Libdem leader has caused the " cricket/bollywood effect" as he put it! Very interesting time here indeed. Our politics has already become a third world politics!

ILLIBERAL DEMOCRATS said...

The Lib Dems are doomed - DOOMED to defeat!

no longer anonymous said...

It's a sad day when people vote according to TV performance rather than manifesto contents.

Cantstandcant said...

There's an awful lot of guesswork and wishful thinking here, and elsewhere, masquerading as certainty. Truth is no one has a clue what will happen next. One prediction with confidence though: suddenly Cameron and Brown have much more to lose in debates 2 and 3 - their two party dominance. "All" Clegg has to lose is going back to 20pc and back to 55-75 MPs.

TelBoy said...

Is the big change here not that finally we know how fickle the British Electorate is? The fact that 10% of voters will change their allegiance without taking the time to understand the policies of the party they are moving to is very scary.

enquiringmind said...

I suspect this will just be a fond memory for Mr Clegg by the time May 7th comes around.

It's certainly time for a change, but people shouldn't kid themselves that the ill-named Liberal Democrats can or want to offer one.

All this post-debate silliness actually reminds me somewhat of the Cameron vs. Davis contest.

enquiringmind.wordpress.com

Joseph1832 said...

Ironically, Cameron needs to stress just how right-on the LibDems are on Europe, immigration and crime.

Which means, that Ashcroft take take his coffee, stop smelling it, and shove it up his backside.

Would it not have been great if Clegg had started the debate on the backfoot because everyone knew his party pretty much opposes any meaningful immigration control? Or that they are weak on crime, and full of hand-wringing about the causes of crime?

And would it not help if, in advance of the next debate, everyone knew that Clegg would write a blank cheque to Brussels, and habitually denounces as mad, bad, or stupid anyone who has the temerity to oppose giving more power to his beloved European Union?

So, Mr Ashcroft, to win the Tories need the issues said should be vacated.

And because the Tories ignored the issues, Clegg was mistaken as tough because he spoke with a strong voice and looked directly into the camera!! Next, he'll have people thinking that he will oppose giving more powers to Europe simply because he looks at the camera and talks of "fighting Britain's corner"...

How exactly did Cameron and his crack team of advisers miss the scenario that Cameron might have to talk about issues, and not just paint nice pictures?

Joseph1832 said...

Also, if the LibDems have attracted mainly those who were going to vote Tory, those voters might be particularly upset when the reality unfolds post 7 May.

I Squiggle said...

Astonishing that one single TV show can alter voting intentions, but that’s the reality of politics, and should have been assumed by CCHQ from the start. Way back when the first time the TV debates were announced I made the point that it was crazy for Cameron to do this. He was ahead in the polls, Brown was tanking, so he had no reason to do it. He had everything to lose, and Clegg has just proved that. This could be a political textbook item in years to come. Idiots.

wv: “plasted”. Well, that’s almost right..

Sabreman64 said...

My dad often says that we get the government we deserve. Well, the great British public are stupid, and after May 6th we'll have a New Labour-Lib Dem coalition government. It's no more than we deserve because we're a load of cupid stunts.

cassandra said...

The real question is just why Cameron thought he could move the party to the centre and even slightly left of centre to try and harvest the centre left voters who would support the libdems/labour. They were never ever going to provide a solid support base for the tories no matter how far left Dave moved his tent, it was obvious that one event like the debate would see any move to the tories evaporate like the morning mist.
The real error was to discard his own grassroots right wing support voter base or at least so take their support for granted that he effectively stamped all over them and left them in the mud.
The strategic blunder of chasing centre left votes while spitting in the faces of their own voter base will become known as the greatest blunder by a political party in modern times, just because newlabours gamble paid off in 97 doesnt mean the gamble will pay off again.
Cameron may well have lost the tory party three terms in government.
Every tory must now be asking themselves some fundamental questions about the future.

Sunder Katwala said...

Don't think first time in "best part of a century" is right; rather "in almost a quarter of a century".

Yes, first time in the LibDems' own history, since founded in 1988, though were tied equal first in a post-Brent byelection poll which had a 3-way tie.

But you would have to count the Alliance, and also the SPD as well as the Liberals as predecessor parties. The Alliance had a poll lead in Sept 1985 (35% to Lab 33, Tories 30) while the SDP and then the Alliance had a sustained poll lead for a good chunk of 1981-82, famously reaching 50% in the polls at the peak.

charles hercock said...

Worry not Tinsel Nick will fail in the end

charles hercock said...

Deliver us from Dangerous Vince and Tinsel Nick the fool

Robert said...

Ah yes Dave could offer a referendum on Europe and we would all come back into the fold.

Or would we? Do you really trust Dave? He now has a track record of reneging on 'cast iron' promises and he isn't exactly spelling out his other policies in the blue book of fairy tales.

david h jones said...

Iain - enjoy the blog and as a non-Tory voter interested in the election. Tories need to raise their game and there's a simple and effective way - call for an English Parliament.

It's simpler to understand than EVEM; it's a recognition of today's assymetrical reality of UK politics; it will appeal to the millions the Tories have lost since 1992; Labour won't copy it, yet, it does tie in with reform of Westminster and is in theory a part of LibDem policy - challenge them on that.

It will appeal to C1 and C2s, especially with World Cup on the horizon; it won't lose any votes in Wales and Scotland as it's 'fareness for all'. It could be annoucned on St George's Day next week and will leave the other two parties with twisted legs.

Cameron needs to do something big. People aren't listening to him. This is it.

javelin said...

I don't think Nick deserves to be in the lead.

I don't think anybody deserves to be in the lead.

Government has grown and grown and grown. The troughing, spinning, lying, sound biting political parties sicken the population.

It's not just Parliament that us corrupt, it's the political process.

None of the leaders acknowlege the economic debt, immigration, tax and spend, lack of national self interest and want to supress it under a blanket of political correctness.

Yet ... The Lib Dems don't have any better policies. If they win the revolution we deserve will not happen. The real revolution will come after this election. Hung Parliaments don't last long and I don't think this one will either.

I don't think Nick Clegg is a revolution. He us more of the same.

The real revolution is the election after next.

p smith said...

Clegg's boost in popularity is a product of the self same factors that propelled Cameron into the lead a few years ago. It is a little bit rich for conservatives to complain that he has used warm words, a fresh face and an easy media ride to bring him into the race. The Tory lead was only ever based on a dislike of he governing party and general feeling that Dave might be the change the country needs. Beyond that the country was never sold on his policies not least because his policies are nebulous and aspirational. That is one of the reasons he had real trouble in the debate. Whereas Clegg could point to specific proposals that might make a difference (Trident, lowering the threshold of the 50% band) even if you think they are bonkers, Dave didn't even dare mention his Big Society proposals because wishy washy drivel isn't going to make the deficit disappear or put more coppers on the beat and instinctively he thought better of trying to argue the case.

It's a little late now but Dave should focus on selling his positive vision for the future in hard facts. He should not train his guns on Clegg but inevitably the brains (sic) trust at central office will dictate otherwise and summon their friends in the media and in the City to predict armageddon if there is a hung parliament. But this time unlike 1992 it won't work because the public don't trust either of the main parties anymore and might take offence to being patronised by some of the people who caused the recession.

Actually I have no idea how the Lib boost will affect the final result. I don't necessarily believe that the projections of Labour being the largest party are correct. It is just as possible that Labour will be squeezed as in 1983. I don't know and no one will know until we know whether the yellow surge will last and, if so, whether they are gaining proportionately more in Lib-Tory marginals or in Lab-Tory ones. If the former, the Tories are f*cked. If the latter, Labour are f*cked. If uniformly, it's going to be a three-way clusterf*ck.

Election night should at least be interesting.

norman said...

The mob reacted the say way with Diana's death. The counry is in big trouble with debt and uncontrolled immigration and we Brits reacting this way is sending sniggers acorss a third world country like India where this kind of frenzy is norm in election time. After full EU integration, Greek tragedy and amnesty for illegal immigrants, we do not need a national government and elections any more. EU commissioners are suffice. The Libdems are arguing that it is one off amnesty for illegal immigrants. But closer examination show that the numbers are increasing as visitors legally entering overstay and colleges and new universities-the former polys bring in overseas students legally who can work 20 hours a week, drop out of classes and disappear. The numbers for the latter alone at least 100,000 every other year in a conservative estimate. With Brown and Clegg for another 5 years, we will have BNP MPs in 3 figures. There is no other better way of destroying this country

Lady Finchley said...

I seem to recall Ross Perrot having a similar day in the sun but it didn't amount to much in the end.

Manfarang said...

OLD ETONIAN PM UNDER PRESSURE!

wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Thai_political_protests

Abhisit no feeble weeble.

Twig said...

Why would anyone trust the LibDems after they broke their promise on the Lisbon referendum? They were in favour until the day of the vote when they abstained thereby denying the public any say on the matter.

Add to this their refusal to hand back the stolen money to Michael Brown's victims and you can see what they're really like under the skin.

I tried to post a comment like this on the LibDem Voice but they didn't publish it - says it all really.

As for Clegg, he's seems to be taking the title from Dave as the "heir to Blair". All the clammer appears to be based purely based on his presentation at the debate rather than anything concrete such as perhaps a sensible policy.

They should include Rory Bremner at the next debate to test the reaction of our "X-factor" generation.

Paddy Briggs said...

Clegg put a plague on both their houses in his references to Labour and the Tories in the debate. His physical position on the left of the three party leaders on the stage allowed him to turn to the other two and sweep them together as “old politics” with the LibDems being the only offer of true change. This is seductively attractive – especially to a new generation of voters brought up on the X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing. Remember this younger electorate chose John Sergeant ahead of real dancers and refused to be told not to. They will have no compunction about choosing the LibDems and Clegg for similar reasons. Headlines like “Cameron says it’s a two horse race” (in The Telegraph”) don’t help the Tories at all – it sounds arrogant and it patently isn’t true. Indeed for years it has been clear that the main thing that stands in the way of Cameron and government is the strength of the LibDems.

I first became interested in politics as a fifteen year-old at the time of the Orpington bye-election in 1962. Orpington promised that the old order could be shattered and it was very exciting at the time - but it didn’t happen of course. Then in the early 1980s I became one of the first members of the SDP who similarly tried to break the mould. That didn’t happen either. Now, for the first time potential mould-breaking may be happening during a General Election campaign. It may run out of steam and it may once again be a disappointment for those who want real change. But the chances of the mould being shattered for good are higher now than ever before in modern Britain. I hope that it happens.

Manfarang said...

Twig
And the Polly Peck donations.
Have they been given back?

norman said...

@Paddy Briggs or Paddy Ashdown. What Clegg is doing to bring the PR which surely brings in BNP MPs. People point out France and 10% of Le Pen votes, but in France Clegg would not be crowned with DeGaulle as here where Clegg is as popular as Churchill says the Times, and many Libdems I spoke to agree with this! I hope that Clegg will be destroyed by Brown and Mandy when Clegg and co join as ministers which is what they real want-selfish imbiciles, like their Libdem friends in Scotland who with Labour in the govt nodded off every bill enjoying office cars and police escort.

Filter said...

Clegg is the outsider and we know how much the British public love those. He is the Susan Boyle of politics.

There are many people jumping onto the bandwagon. Forget whether its right for the country, at this moment for a lot of people it feels good to back him.

The TV debates have turned the election into Britain's Got Talent.

We will get what we deserve on May 7. A Lib-Lab pact and the dismantling of Britain can truly begin.

As in 1997, 2001 and 2005 I can cheerfully say I didn't vote for it.

neil craig said...

Well the Alliance topped polls regularly before the Falhlands war. If it is argued they are not LibDems then neither were the Liberal Party under LLoyd George.

I do not believe this actually means popularity for what the LibDems stand for (windmills, blackouts, Europhilia, joining the EU, cynically making & breaking promises on the Lisbon referendum. war crimes, genocide & worse in Kosovo, taxing everything that moves, subsidising everything that doesn't, smoking & other bans). It means that the people are sick to the back teeth with the other 2 parties, who also support most of these things, albeit less enthusiastically, & want to protest. The LibDems are simply the only publicly discussed protest vehicle. Presumably we will now see some mention of the LibDem policies by their opponents - who knows we may even see some serious debate on policy generally which would be nice.

The real loser here is Cameron who denuded the Conservative party of policy & principle to make them into a cuddly "brand". Even if the Tories get an overall majority now it will be despite putting image before substance not because of it.

The other point is that the need for a democratic electoral system cannot be denied by anybody who doesn't openly want to defraud the voters. With 3 parties head to head the idea that any of them could have a genuine mandate is clearly untenable. In fact the electoral calculus suggests that we are most likely to se Labour the largest party & the LDs tthe smallest even if the LDs get the largest number of votes & Labour the smallest. It is a little late for the Conservatives to say they would support a referendum on PR but better late than never & the present position is clearly untenable.

Mulligan said...

Time for a game changer. A vote on EU membership would completely change the dynamics.

As to the next debates Cameron was as complacent and useless as Chelsea were at Tottenham. They both need to raise their game next week, mind you Clegg can't be allowed to get away with just being "different" from the other two, especially as they're more socialist than Labour.

norman said...

@neil craig. What if the PR brings 50 BNP MPs as most are worried about the level of immigration.

sagenz said...

Iain
Stop standing off. Call your contacts and remind them of United Future in New Zealand in 2002 where a successful debate carried through to the election result. United Future are an equally waffly third party in New Zealand that had an exceptionally popular debate result. Whilst the numbers, timing (1 week vs 3 weeks), parties and situation is different the human lesson is that the debate support will count. Now is not the time to do nothing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Future_New_Zealand
From wiki "Most of United Future's 2002 MPs were elected in an astonishing last-week election turn-around (popularly attributed to a graphic "support worm" displayed during one televised debate) that saw votes lost by both the Labour and the Green parties, who were engaged in a public squabble over genetic engineering."

Osama the Nazarene said...

Clegg may not have been "brilliant" but he was certainly competent. Brown's performance was expected but the person who underperformed badly was Cameron.

He was very wooden, refused to smile and allowed the others to interrupt him. The description of "rabbit in headlights" is very apt.

Asking the electorate for a blank cheque did not help him either.