Wee Dougie’s New Number Watcher

Eyebrows have been raised by the replacement Douglas Alexander has chosen for his departed spinner Steve Van Riel. You would have thought that as shadow Foreign Secretary he would have brought someone in with some actual foreign policy experience, but instead the one time campaign manager to David Miliband has chosen Michelle Napchan. She’s a pollster…

Officially the line is that Napchan will be helping to craft Labour’s message by focus grouping on issues like Europe. However, given that Wee Dougie was one of the few figures able to flit between the Blairites and the Brownites, he is a key unity figure in Ed’s Shadow Cabinet and the slightest hint that he is on manoeuvres gets people talking. One Labour spinny-type suggests that he has studied how Brown did things from the shadows: “he’s building his own private operation, his own army”.  Another Labour source was not so sure though: “The only army I see Douglas Alexander building is one with Action Men”. If there is ever a move against Ed, Guido would put good money on the “unity” man being involved

It’s Going to Come Down to Trust
Boris Takes Eight Point Lead

Who said negative campaigning didn’t work? After being exposed as the old hypocrite that he is, Ken’s January lead in the polls has been annihilated. In the latest YouGov poll of first preferences, Boris is on 49% to Ken’s 41%. On second preferences the gap was the same: Boris leading Livingstone by 54% to 46%. That would see Boris improving on his 2008 result.

Earlier today a ComRes poll for the BBC was a similar headache for Ken. Boris is beating him on crime, trust, likeability and, most embarrassingly, on transport issues. Ken has made his fares promise (which FactCheck said was rubbish) the central plank of his campaign, but the public just don’t buy it. Last month Ken was ahead of Boris on sticking to promises. That lead has now gone…

Ken has seen a six point drop in those who say he “sticks to what he believes”. If Ken can’t even be honest abut his own finances, what chance does he have of convincing others to trust him with their money. Trust is Ken’s biggest weakness and he seems incapable of being honest and straight-forward, despite evidence countering what he says being freely available. Take last night’s rally where his campaign claimed there were 500 people:

Surprise, surprise the pictures tell a different story.

UPDATE: Our co-conspirator who made it inside last night’s Ken event says by the entrance door there were two mug-shot pictures of Guido and Neo-Guido presumably for the benefit of the security guards. He also says that in his speech Ken called the Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan “mad” and Guido a thugKen’s hurting, badly…

Boris 51% v Ken 49%

The latest YouGov Mayoral polling has Boris back in the lead, but within the margin of error. Guido imagines the fluctuation will continue for a while, but Joe Murphy at the Standard hits the nail on the head:

“What the headline figures do show, beyond doubt, is that Ken has failed to extend or harden his January lead. He is like a marathon runner who, in a stupendous effort, catches up with the leader only to find he cannot break ahead. “

Only 44% believe Ken will keep his promises, despite liking the ideas. As ever the breakdown is more interesting than the headline figures:

“In inner London, Ken is ahead by 53 per cent to 47. But the huge outer doughnut is sticking with Boris by 52 to 48. Among voters aged 18 to 24 the pair get 50 per cent each. Ken is somewhat ahead among 25 to 59-year-olds. But Boris has a massive “grey power” advantage, a two to one lead among the over-sixties.”

Crucially that suburban doughnut is a) bigger and b) full of those over 65s who are more likely to vote.

Tory Grassroots Back NHS Reforms

Ashcroft-owned ConservativeHome has an editorial this morning saying that the NHS reform bill should be dropped. ConservativeHome is perceived and represents itself as the “voice of the grassroots”, editor Tim Montgomerie says that on this issue three Tory Cabinet ministers he has spoken to have “rung the alarm bell”:

One was insistent the Bill must be dropped. Another said Andrew Lansley must be replaced. Another likened the NHS reforms to the poll tax. The consensus is that the Prime Minister needs an external shock to wake him to the scale of the problem.

Well Cabinet Ministers are hardly the grassroots, who seem far more enthusiastic for NHS reform. Tim admits in the article that the NHS is not currently a high priority for voters, in fact according to Ashcroft-owned sister-website PoliticsHome’s polling, support is strong from Conservative voters, with a small plurality of support for even more radical policies, YouGov found that by 46% to 45% Tory voters would support privatisation of NHS services. The recognition that some kind of reform is necessary over-whelming and all-party:

The unions have pushed the Labour Party to oppose Coalition reforms which were along the same lines as New Labour in government were implementing. The idea that there is widespread opposition to local commissioning is union sponsored spin and scaremongering.  The idea that Tory activists oppose reform is ludicrous. They would go even further than the government…

Exclusive: Labour Call in the Pollsters for Crisis Welfare Briefing

With Ed continuing to plummet in the polls and Labour peers voting against the wishes of Labour voters on the benefits bill, Guido is not that surprised to learn that a crisis meeting has been called, for after PMQs tomorrow at 1230, there will be a briefing session on public attitudes to Labour and welfare reform in the Shadow Cabinet room for members of the PLP.

The session will be lead by James Morris, who is seconded from pollsters Greenberg Quinlan Rosner to Team Ed. He will break the news to the MPs gently, by running through Labour’s private polling. The Shadow Cabinet will be coaxed towards an understanding of the attitudes of that reality based community, better known as the voting public, with hard data about what the public think about Labour’s position on welfare and welfare reform generally. Guido hopes that Morris will offer a slightly more astute and sophisticated analysis than he tweeted last night:

This benefits cap issue is toxic for Labour, who are violently out of sync with the public here, in particular their own lower-income working voters. Oh to be a fly on the wall tomorrow…

Labour Trying to Have it Both Ways on Polling

More bad news for Boris today as a ComRes poll echoes last week’s YouGov offering that had Ken in the lead. The jubilation in Labour circles is on the up, but they obviously didn’t get the same lines Chuka was sent for his appearance on the Sunday Politics yesterday: “Polls go up and down… you’re obsessed with polls Andrew”. Heads in the sand…

Leaving aside Brillo’s cutting riposte “I’m sorry Mr Umunna these just go down”, Labour are clearly trying to have it both ways. Do polls matter or not? Why is a poll showing Ken in the lead any more valid that one showing Ed tanking? Any suggestion that polls aren’t devoured by people like Chuka is nonsense… 

Kellner Makes the Case for Clegg to Support a Referendum

The pollster and commentator Peter Kellner has written an open letter to Nick Clegg suggesting that to save himself in 2012 he backs an In/Out referendum, he argues that the Yes side would win because Cameron would join Ed Miliband and Alex Salmond in campaigning for a Yes. Kellner believes, somewhat optimistically, a united political class would overcome entrenched popular opinion and press opposition.

They would, in Kellner’s view, sway currently €uro-sceptic public opinion in the course of the campiagn to the Yes side. Given that Clegg’s negative public approval rating has gone from a terrible -40% to a catastrophic -55% this would for once put Clegg on the public’s side of an argument. Kellner argues that if Clegg called for a referendum he would receive the public’s credit, Cameron would have to concede. Tory backbenchers would demand it and Cameron would not be able to resist the Tory right and the LibDems combined.

Kellner is a technocratic pollster and this has a certain Machiavellian logic to it. Guido has one other reason why Clegg should call for an In/Out referendum: he promised one without any Cameron cast-iron “if the treaty isn’t signed” wiggle room or qualification.

Clegg promised in writing

The Liberal Democrats believe that Britain should have a referendum, not on the narrow question of adopting this new treaty, but on the big question that faces Britain, whether we remain a part of the EU or not.

The question of Britain’s place in the European Union has poisoned our national politics for decades.  As a nation, we need to lance this boil and decide once and for all if we want to be a part of this European Union or not.

So he can outflank the Tories on Europe and restore some of his lost trust. Why is he waiting to honour his promise?

Dead Ed: The Graph
CCHQ Rein in the Hounds

Newsnight gave Ed a pasting last night, but sometimes a graph is all you need. Left Foot Forward have hit the spot:

Half the country thinks he possess absolutely no qualities worth noting. Guido hears that CCHQ strategists have scrapped an attack on Ed’s leadership pencilled in for Friday morning, post by-election defeat…

Heads in the Sand at Labour HQ

The role of Deputy Party Chairman seems to be forcing Tom Watson further and further from the reality based community. When he’s not paying special close attention to candidate selection, he’s in full spin mode. With the Tories regaining the […]

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Miliband’s Tactical Blunder

Europe is now the third most important issue to voters. A few months ago Guido suggested that if Ed had any eye for the long game he would ground Labour in popular Euroscepticism. He didn’t listen, in fact he did […]

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Poll Bounce Reflects Lucky Hat-Trick for Dave

The ICM poll showing a 2% Tory lead is being discounted as a rogue, after all YouGov and others show a single digit lead for Ed Miliband. That may be true, but there is a consistent Tory lead when poll […]

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Dead Ed Data

Guido is currently up to his neck trying to unravel sleazy paper trails, company documents and bank account details. He’s not quite ready to lift that lid, so in the mean time he thought he’d share some bad news for […]

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Quote of the Day

Labour’s Austin Mitchell muses on the campaign:

“What’s the problem? No use pointing at the leader. Too late to change and unnecessary for Miliband is doing well at Question Time. His problem is connecting with the real world. He doesn`t speak people and his protective team of naive kids are playing West Wing rather than letting the leader relate to real people. We could point at the party, shrunk in numbers and enthusiasm because everything, from policy formulation to candidate selection, comes top down rather than bubbling up from below so campaigning becomes the opium of members deprived of any real role, though they`re not even sure what they’re campaigning about, with or for, but its role is marginal.”

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