Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Going nowhere… slowly

The poll in The Times today comes as no surprise to anyone in tune with politics, showing as it does that find support for Labour and the Conservatives is lower than a year ago. Nor is it a surprise to see that Charles Kennedy and the Liberal Democrats are gaining – they always do when the other parties are down.

But to have Labour on 32 per cent and the Tories at 30 (with the Lib Dims on 26 percent) must be a cruel blow to even the most optimistic of Tories, and surely must spell the death knell to any pretensions they have of winning the next general election.

The Times has also collated the results of all published polls since April, to find that the Tories are now doing no better under Michael Howard (averaging 33 per cent) than in the same period last year under Iain Duncan Smith (33.3 per cent).

Predictably, Labour is also less popular than last year, averaging 34 percent over the past six months, down from 35.5 percent in the same period last year. The Lib Dims have averaged about 22 per cent over the past six months, fractionally up from 21.4 per cent in the same period of 2003.

Reports The Times, these trends are matched in the leader index, which asks voters to rate leaders on a nought-to-ten scale. Tony Blair’s rating has dropped slightly and, at 4.84, is at its lowest point since the index began early last year. His rating has fallen recently more among Labour voters than among the public generally.

Michael Howard’s rating has also slipped, for the second month in succession, and at 4.44 is near its lowest level since he became Conservative leader last autumn.

However, all these changes are marginal, reflecting the summer torpor and the fact that the political scene has not yet picked up – as can be seen from the dearth of domestic political news. But, as the tempo does pick up, nothing suggests that Mr Howard and his band of not-so-merry men are going to fare any better.

One clue as to what is going on came from a local meeting last night of Tory MPs, who were confronted with 80 angry voters, demanding to know why Howard was not prepared to take a more robust line with the EU.

This and many other events all point to the political elites being totally out of tune with their electorates, reflected also in the "Vote No" campaign's craven surrender to the forces of appeasement, expressing support for EU membership.

Until they wake up to the new reality, the polls are going to continue to tell the same story… the Tories are going nowhere – slowly.

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