Saturday, April 08, 2006

 

Tories' Yawning Credibility Gap

Pity poor Francis Maude, Conservative Party chairman, who admitted a couple of days ago that, while the public liked the new leader, they still did not like the party. He compounded this possible error by also saying that it was not clear if they could win the next election. Oh dear. But the ICM poll for Channel 4 News suggests he is spot on. From the poll we learn that both parties are currently level pegging on 35 perc ent with Lib Dems on 21 and that:

i) 37 per cent think brown is best qualified to be PM;Dave got 32 per cent.
ii) 40 per cent thought Dave was more 'spin than substance'.
iii) 58 per cent thought the party 'has not really changed much at all'.

The Tories basically face the same problem as Labour in the late eighties: they had changed at a breakneck pace under Kinnock but a huge slice of voters, quite reasonably, did not believe such rapid change was the genuine article. Moreover Labour's change was, of necessity, not quite such a big ask. After all, Labour had governed moderately under the moderate Wilson and clawed its way back to moderation under Sunny Jim Callaghan. The loony left period under Footie had been more of an aberration really; Labour had merely to reconnect with its revisionist tradition and then convince the public that this had actually taken place.

Even so, this took a long time and required the brilliance of Blair's campaign to ditch Clause Four. As posted on earlier occasions, the Tories have no such convenient 'clause four issue' available to them. The result is that, even though Dave has worked a small miracle to put his party back on the road to contention, he needs a much, much bigger one to give the Conservatives any realistic chance of governing after the next election. Maude may be criticised for raining on Dave's triumphant rhetorical parade, but in truth he is merely telling his colleagues the harsh reality of the task they face.

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