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Nick Wood's High Noon: Tory high command must find a way of demonstrating that Nick Clegg's claims to represent a new kind of politics are spurious

Nick Wood square Nick Wood's daily High Noon column

"It was The Sun wot won it," was the iconic headline after the 1992 election - the last time Britain found itself in an election campaign as hazy as the cloud of volcanic ash blotting out most of northern Europe.

Then the nation's most ebullient tabloid took it upon itself to shred the "Welsh windbag" Neil Kinnock and to claim victory for its campaigning techniques after John Major defied the pollsters and a recession and scored an unexpected win.

Nearly 20 years later and The Sun finds itself at the heart of the campaign. It spoiled Gordon Brown's last party conference by declaring for the Conservatives a few hours after his speech and it has since wasted little time boosting David Cameron's prospects.

It is also running the YouGov daily tracker poll - our best guide to the ups and downs of this rollercoaster campaign.

Today, much to its chagrin, The Sun is forced to report that Nick Clegg is out in front, just ahead of the Tories and 7 points up on Labour - a result that would still make Brown leader of the largest party in Parliament and
presumably keep him in No 10.

In the absence of any signs of a concerted Tory counter-offensive against the Lib Dems, the press, led by The Sun but also including a so far lukewarm Daily Mail, are hitting back. They are driving home the message that a vote for Clegg will keep Brown as Prime Minister.

Across two pages today, The Sun puts Lib Dem policies to the test of public opinion, finding that of his top 10 plans for the country, six are rejected by voters and only three (tax, public sector pay limits and voting reform)
win support.

Anxious candidates fighting Lib Dems might find the poll helpful when it comes to mounting their own fightback on the ground.

But policy is not what is driving the Lib Dem surge. It is Clegg's dubious claim to represent a new kind of politics - to be the voice of a disenchanted public infuriated by the expenses scandal - that is the real
motor.

All now seems to turn on the second TV debate on Thursday. The Tory high command has to find a way of demonstrating that Clegg's claims are spurious and that only Cameron can rescue the country from its current malaise.

Nick Wood, Managing Director, Media Intelligence Partners

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