The Second Reading…

…of Douglas Carswell’s private member’s bill is happening right now. It appears to be subjected to fillibusting by Tory whip Brooks Newmark, who spoke for an hour before on Sustainable Communities as not to give enough time to the referendum bill.

Douglas’ twitters:

My EU Membership (Referendum) Bill. Seems it’s been deliberately “talked out”?

Same old Tories, Europhiles to the end.

Update: Kerry McCarthy twitters:

Think Carswell just had go at Newmark outside. Newmark retorted “I cut it in half!” Carswell not happy, won’t get to his Bill.


That Tory Lead

Another poll and more bad news for the Tories, their lead is now down to 5 points. This is worrying for Cameron, a point he acknowledges by unusually consulting his shadow cabinet:

The shadow Cabinet — which has been bypassed for most of Cameron’s tenure — is now being consulted. It met for more than two hours on Tuesday — after the Cameroon powwow in Notting Hill — and had, unusually, a proper discussion of the political situation. One member tells me that almost everyone spoke at the meeting. That this is considered news says a lot about how the shadow Cabinet is normally conducted.

James Forysth’s article tries to analyze the question of ‘why has the Tory lead halved since December?’ (my emphasis):

All of the most trusted members of Cameron’s inner circle were there — George Osborne, Steve Hilton, Andy Coulson, Michael Gove — but the atmosphere was not one of jubilation, or even excited determination. The predominant mood was despair. Osborne put their worries into words: What’s going wrong? he asked. Why are we slipping in the polls, even when Brown is so unpopular?

Forysth makes some good points that the Tories have had a bad start to the year, they made some unforced errors, have lost momentum and don’t seem to have a focused message:

Rather, it is to do with the campaign. The Labour message is clear and repeated while the Tory one is opaque. One shadow Cabinet member told me this week that he wished the Tories had a slogan as effective as Labour’s ‘a future fair for all’. Candidates report that voters can remember Labour policies but not Tory ones.

Even the party’s own press people complain — in private — about a lack of clarity. ‘Everyone struggles to articulate what we are really for,’ one told me. ‘We don’t really have a message or a purpose.’ When the salesmen believe they don’t really have a product, then they are much less likely to persuade the media or voters.

All true but there’s one subject that doesn’t get mentioned.

Here’s the Tory lead over Labour since 1st January 2009 up to the latest poll, the vertical line indicates the 1st poll taken after 3rd November 2009.

Here’s the Tory lead from 1st January to 3rd November 2009 with an added trend line. all pretty stable, the average lead over Labour is 14 points.

So lets do a comparison between 5 months before 3rd November and 5 months after. Below is 5 months before, slight downward trend nothing significant and the average lead is 14 points.

Then 5 months after the 3rd and…er…whoops, the trend line shows a marked and significant downward turn, the average lead has dropped to 10 points, and is still falling.

The 3rd November was of course the day when Cameron u-turned on a Lisbon referendum, which caused unhappiness at the time within his own party. It’s notable also that 12 days after the 3rd the Tories’ lead went down to 6 points for the first time in a nearly year (when the banking crisis hit), at the time it was dismissed as an outliner, but now looks to have been a sign of the trend to come.

Cameron has clearly taken a significant hit over Lisbon, though I still think he will scrape through; when voters’ start thinking at the ballot box if they want 5 more years of Brown. But ironically by trying to avoid the EU issue Cameron has made a rebellion in his own party more, rather than less likely, because his majority will be smaller than it otherwise could have been.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

As others have noted today, the Telegraph reports:

Ken Clarke, the shadow Business Secretary, is to hold secret talks in Brussels with Jose Manuel Barroso to assure the European Commission President the EU has nothing to fear from a Conservative government.
The two-day visit to Brussels, which begins on Tuesday, by the most pro-EU member of David Cameron’s cabinet-in-waiting is seen by European officials as a signal that a new Conservative administration will work with the EU executive rather battling against it.

It’s all so dreary and predictable that I’ve not much to add, apart from this from the Spectator (my emphasis):

The new Guardian ICM poll has the Tory lead down to seven points and the party on 37 percent….this poll will heighten the sense of nervousness on the Tory side. Even before this poll came out, David Cameron had called a shadow Cabinet meeting for tomorrow which will be held at CCHQ and is scheduled to last for two hours.

Despite facing the most incompetent and hated Government in recent times, the Tories’ poll lead has been on a steady but consistent downward trend since last November.

Is it any wonder?

James Purnell Quits

From the Times:

James Purnell, one of the few remaining Blairites with a chance of becoming Labour leader, shocked his party this morning by announcing that he was quitting Parliament at the election.

Insiders said that Mr Purnell had nothing lined up for his life after Parliament.

His departure is another blow to the Labour leadership, because it sends out the message that one of the party’s youngest heavyweight stars sees no immediate future in politics for himself, and probably for his party.

Update: This is unexpected news, and as the Times points out, it sends a message Purnell believes Labour are doomed at this election. For all the talk of Labour closing the gap and a possible hung Parliament, it’s interesting that the behaviour of Labour MPs seems to suggest otherwise. What do they know that the polls aren’t showing?

The timing is interesting, today is Brown’s big speech and tomorrow he launches Labour’s election campaign.

Brown Unveils Another Election Strategy

This weekend (my emphasis):

Prime Minister Gordon Brown will unveil the slogan of Labour’s general election campaign in a speech at the weekend.

And the BBC has learned he will outline the four main themes he hopes will help Labour to a fourth term in government.

Marvelous, the state broadcaster has learned. No investigative journalistic criticism here, just plain copy writing from Number 10. By a strange coincidence this Sunday there will be this:

and an exclusive serialisation of columnist Andrew Rawnsley’s book on the final years of the Labour government.

Is Gordon Brown trying to divert attention away from damaging allegations this weekend? Surely not?! Which indicates that the potential allegations must be ‘untrue’.