Conservative Diary

« Theresa Villiers calls for inquiry into Labour's handling of flight crisis | Main | Should Cameron emphasise the economic dangers of a hung parliament or the dangers of Brown getting in by the back door? »

Cameron needs the Lab/Lib vote to split 50/50 and to come through the middle

Nick Wood's High Noon column.

Crack teams of halo removal operatives are now being scrambled from the murkier quarters of what was once Fleet Street in a last ditch bid to halt the Lib Dem bandwagon.

Today, The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph and, of course, ConservativeHome with its attack vid, all waded into St Nick over his expenses claims, his past work as a lobbyist and his leaked leader's debate crib sheet.

His expenses (£83,824 over four years including thousands on mortgage interest and bijou touches such as £160 a month for a gardener to prune his plum trees and a new wall for the rose garden) were first raised at a press conference by that curmudgeonly old warhouse Andrew Neil.

They produced a novel response from Clegg, who were insisted they were acceptable since his "modest" semi in Sheffield belonged not to him but the people and any profit on it would be returned to the taxpayer. Presumably Clegg Towers will opened to a grateful nation and will come complete with a blue plaque, uniformed attendants, and audio guides. By then, according to this fantasy, St Nick will be returfing the Downing Street lawns. (The rose garden already has a wall).

The press are unlikely to stop with expenses claims. After his boast that he has slept with 'no more than 30' women, no doubt the News of the World and the Mail on Sunday, among others, are conducting further inquiries. How many of them are still voting Lib Dem?

David Cameron and his senior lieutenants are staying above the fray. But here can be no doubt that the media's bid to knock a few chips off the Clegg halo is critical to demolishing his claim to be the champion of a new kind of politics, untarnished by the shady pasts of Labour and the Conservatives.

Meanwhile, the polls look ever more volatile. Could we be in for a re-run of 1992 when the pollsters were left with egg on their faces and John Major scored a shock victory?

Certainly, this is looking like a tough election to poll. Evidence is emerging that the Lib Dem surge is predominantly among young, undecided voters glavanised by a combination of a thirst for revenge over claims for pruning plum trees and Clegg's winning smile in last week's X Factor-style debate.

These people show up in the polls. But how likely are they to vote? Not very is the conventional answer. It is grandad and grandma who can be relied upon to make it to the ballot box.

In other words, the polls may be overstating Lib Dem support, suggesting that the Conservatives should be able to repulse a Lib Dem advance in the south and even make a few gains.

Perhaps Labour should be more worried. Grumpy old Gordon has been sidelined by the spectacle of the two young pretenders battling for the crown. For him the risk is a re-run of 1983 where the Centre-Left vote splits almost 50:50 and, with a strong Tory showing, David Cameron comes through the middle to clinch victory.

Cameron has been a lucky leader so far. He just needs his luck to hold for a couple more weeks.

Nick Wood of Media Intelligence Partners.


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.