David Cameron’s new election broadcast is on the Conservative website. Apparently this was rushed into production and the old one junked so that his Daveness could project a more positive message and reclaim the mantle of the candidate for change.
There’s a touch of a Richard Curtis movie about the clip. There’s Mr Cameron looking unruffled and charming in his Notting Hill back garden. The grass is lush, the sun is shining and there’s a simply super kid’s play area at the back of the shot. I didn’t see Hugh Grant in the background but you feel he was probably inside helping himself to the last brownie. There’s no soundtrack by Wet,Wet, Wet, but Take That’s Gary Barlow was in an earlier Cameron movie.
For my first toe in the water I’m plumping for Dundee West where William Hill has the Scottish Nats as the favourites despite having to overturn a 5,379 Labour majority.
Tim Bale, a political scientist at Sussex University, speaks to FT UK news editor Sarah Neville on the difficulty of the Lib Dems breaking through despite their poll bounce.
Worth taking a look at this new report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, always a source of light in this increasingly foggy fiscal battleground. Some of the facts are very striking, especially when you hear claims by Labour’s leadership that they have guided us through the recession with barely a scratch.
A Financial Times experiment will begin today. The FT accountants have had their fingers prised off the company purse strings so that Jim and I can start betting on the election.
We’ll both have a kitty of £100 to pit our wits against one another and the bookies of Britain.
Given the consequences of last Thursday, what to make of David Cameron’s previous demands for televised election debates?
The knives are already out for the Tory leader in some quarters at least; Peter Bingle of Bell Pottinger describes it as “the most inept Tory campaign in living memory” given that the party had until fairly recently a 20-point lead.
This could be premature. And of course Cleggmania could yet fade away – and there are still two debates to come – but the following statements by Cameron now have a distinct whiff of hubris:
1] ‘I hope in the next few days Gordon Brown will make clear that once he’s actually the Labour leader and Prime Minister he’ll take part in proper TV debates that could really help bring politics to life.’ (BBC News Online, 19 May 2007)
2] ‘Any time, anywhere. I will even pay for the taxi to take him to the studio. In fact, I’ll even drive the cab!’ (Cameron, The Sun, 6 September 2007)
Cameron will be cursing the order of the debates. He’d much prefer to be attacking Nick Clegg on domestic issues than foreign affairs on Thursday. In terms of the structure of the debate, the advantage is with Clegg.
Cameron will be wary of exploiting some of the Clegg weaknesses on Europe for fear of looking like an old-school Tory. And Clegg has a few topics (Iraq and Afghanistan) where he can deliver a change message.
Running through the main debating points makes clear that this will be no walkover for Cameron.
1) Iraq — Upper hand to Clegg
Clegg plays the outsider with public opinion on his side. Neither Cameron or Brown have apologised for supporting the war. What response does Cameron have, apart from attacking Brown?
The podcasts, which are hosted by Robert Shrimsley, will be recorded every Monday and Friday for the duration of the campaign – see the full list in the UK election podcast archive.
Nick Clegg has a problem but it’s a nice kind of problem. The Lib Dem leader is enjoying a remarkable poll surge which he needs to defend and enhance. He is unlikely to be troubled by most of the attacks other parties are likely to launch on him, which will seem only to prove his point that the other two are just the two old relics defending the status quo.
But one attack does cause him difficulties and it is no surprise therefore that the Tories are pressing it hard. The “Vote Clegg, Get Brown” line is effective for two reasons. The first is that it could shore up wavering Conservatives and the second is that if it takes root it can undermine the Lib Dem claim to be the true party of change. As I wrote yesterday, the change mantle is the one David Cameron needs to reclaim if he is to win and it is the one he foolishly ceded to Nick Clegg in the debate. The claim that a Lib Dem surge could sustain Mr Brown unless the Labour vote collapses entirely has the added advantage of being true.