Saturday, April 16, 2005
Playing on fear
The NHS Confederation, representing health trusts across Britain, abandoned an attempt to stay out of politics during the election when its leaders became outraged by a letter to voters from the Conservative leader.
Mr Howard attacked the Labour record on infection control and, to underline the point, gave figures showing "the number of people who contracted MRSA in your local NHS trust". Each letter included figures for the recipient's constituency.
The confederation found that the statistics bore no relation to the number of infections in the nearest NHS trust.
This is no surprise, after all the Tories have played fast and loose with the facts throughout the election, playing on people's fears to win votes. Their tactics have been reprehensible. As the Guardian says:
Other independent bodies have voiced dismay about election claims concerning Gypsies, crime and immigration - not least the doctored anti-immigration photo of the Tory candidate in South Dorset, Labour's tightest marginal seat.
What is also interesting is the way that opinion polls are shaping up. All this week's major opinion polls showed the Tories starting to slip back to where William Hague failed in 2001.
The YouGov poll for the Daily Telegraph, which had the main parties neck and neck on 36% a week ago, saw the gap widen to 38%-33% with the Lib Dems up from 20% to 22% at the Tories' expense.
The newspaper concluded that populist tactics have run into the buffers. One senior Tory told the Guardian last night: "We have flogged this to death. It underpins a narrow base, but does not get us much further."
Things are starting to get interesting after all.