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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bad news day

Although the Tories think they are at last starting to make headway following the Liberal Democrats leadership crisis, as James Graham points out this is not necessarily so. The latest poll in The Times has Labour up one on 39%, the Tories up one on 36% and the Liberal Democrats down three on 16%. James records that this is hardly surprising after one of the worst months for the Liberal Democrats in recent memory. However, what is more significant is the fact that Cameron's party is still behind during their very energetic honeymoon period.

What gloating Tories like Iain Dale do not seem to have realised is that all this publicity about Charles Kennedy and the leadership crisis has pushed their golden boy off the front pages. Suddenly, it is the Liberal Democrats who are engaging in a high profile and rejuvenating debate (well, we will be soon) whilst the new Conservative leader and his energetic initiatives become yesterday's news.

All of Cameron's momentum appears to have dissipated in a haze, thus the disappointing poll results. The questions that Dave has to answer now are all about substance and stamina and he hasn't shown much sign of having either so far.

The saving grace for the Tories is that they are able to use this lull to rush out bad news in the hope that nobody notices. The decision to perform a u-turn on student top-up fees yesterday is one such initiative.

Previously, the Conservatives had tried to milk student votes on the basis of their opposition to this policy. Their about-face has left the Liberal Democrats as the only party championing the cause of students. It has also left the Welsh Conservatives high-and-dry. Now that is something worth banking so that the new Liberal Democrats leader can cash it in.
I'm not sure if there can really be the same level of debate that the Conservative leadership election generated. They had the great fortune of having a party conference slap bang at the opening of the campaign and I think that was good for them, giving each candidate a clear platform to talk from.

Will be interested to see who the final line-up gets made up of because as far as I can see Campbell is still the only MP with the required 7 supporters unless Opik has some MPs up his sleeve he can pull out to support Oaten.
I believe that there are two other MPs who have the required number of signatures in addition to Ming. I will be interested if Oaten is able to join them or not.
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