Peter Hoskin

The Tories’ negative brand of politics

The Tories' negative brand of politics
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After the findings of the latest Guardian/ICM poll - which placed Labour on 35 percent (up one point) and the Tories on 37 percent (down two points) - there's a hard-hitting article by Trevor Kavanagh in the pages of today's Sun.  Kavanagh laments the Tories' inability to capitalise on recent political events:

"Maybe Gordon Brown is a lucky politician after all ... The dour Scot has endured the most brutal battering of any new Prime Minister in history — mostly self-inflicted ... His Government is adrift, dithering and indecisive ... It is under siege on immigration, street violence, squandered cash and rampant hospital superbugs ... Yet voters seem remarkably forgiving ... Instead of turning away from Gordon Brown, they seem to be going off David Cameron ... The Tory lead has been slashed to as low as two per cent in one poll and eight per cent in another ... That’s nowhere near enough to guarantee Election victory — still less match Tony Blair’s 36 per cent lead over John Major ... Battered Labour is also learning how to cope with vicious political weather ... Gordon is slow and ponderous in the Commons, like an old bruiser making one last bid for the title. But while he will never dance like a butterfly, he can absorb punishment without falling over."

And remember that Polly Toynbee - in an article otherwise eviscerating the Government - wrote the follwing last week:

"It's never too late for redemption - or "change" as Brown calls it without changing anything. For despite all this, the Tories are still only a few points ahead, nowhere near where they should be."

It should be stressed that the Guardian/ICM poll was conducted before Peter Hain's resignation, so I still believe that the Tories may capitalise (in the polls) yet.  But they're certainly not helping themselves.  

In this regard, the Conservatives' own "News Headlines" are telling.  Most recent party news relates to attacks on this or that Labour MP, and there are almost no stories about new Tory policy.  This is a cynical - and risky - brand of politics.  As Blair demonstrated in 1997, it's not enough to stand back and watch a government implode whilst occassionally prodding it with a sharp stick.  A government-in-waiting must seize the policy agenda; mould mainstream opinion; and convince the electorate that it is the better option.  At the end of the day, only positive politics truly wins votes.