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Sunday, September 30, 2007

A crisis of leadership

This morning's newspapers are full of a number of leaderships in crisis. By far the most immediate is the position of Gareth Jenkins as Wales' coach, whose position has now become untenable after defeat at the hands of Fiji, 38-34, last night. The WRU have moved swiftly to resolve this particular issue and will now no doubt spend several months agonising over who will take over the top job.

The Wales' result was a bit of a blow on another level as well. I went to the combined Annual Dinner of Cardiff North, RCT and Vale of Glamorgan Liberal Democrats last night and donated a Welsh flag tie for the auction. Alas, by the time it came up for bidding it had lost a lot of its value and most of its appeal.

The other leadership crisis is playing out in Blackpool. An Observer poll tells us this morning that David Cameron is trailing badly on nearly every indicator of public opinion. They believe that the temptation to go to the country may prove almost irresistible after today's Observer/Ipsos MORI poll showed that Gordon Brown was opening up a clear lead over Cameron on a series of fronts:

Labour enjoys a seven-point lead over the Tories. Labour is on 41 per cent, the Conservatives on 34 per cent and the Lib Dems on 16 per cent. Labour's lead in today's poll is lower than its double-digit margin in some polls this weekend; however this will not alarm Brown, whose private polls are closer to Ipsos MORI's figures.

Brown is regarded as best able to handle a crisis by 60 per cent of voters, compared with 13 per cent for Cameron and 9 per cent for Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell. The Prime Minister even leads on the crisis issue among Tory supporters - by 37 per cent to 32 per cent.
Brown leads the most united team, according to 54 per cent of those asked. Cameron scores 12 per cent and Campbell scores 10 per cent.

Cameron falls behind Brown on one of the defining issues of his leadership. Just over a third of voters (34 per cent) say that Brown is best able to deal with the environment, compared with 22 per cent for Cameron and 17 per cent for Campbell.

Voters are also in no doubt that Labour is on course for victory at the next general election. More than two thirds (71 per cent) believe Labour will win a majority, with a mere 12 per cent believing Tories will win. Only 29 per cent of Tories think they will win the next election, and nearly half of Conservatives (48 per cent) think Labour will win.

It is not brilliant news for us either but we at least have the benefit of being united behind our leader and fully ready for an election. Activists in our key seats are working hard and there is a strong belief that as the campaign gets underway we will pick up support for both the substance of our policies and the experience and gravitas of our leader.

In contrast Cameron's problem is best summed up by a gaffe in the Independent a few weeks ago, as reported by Private Eye at the beginning of September:

'David Cameron has put party workers on alert for a snap October election and made the breakdown of British society a key plank in the Tory platform.'

Who said that Margaret Thatcher no longer had any influence with the Tory leadership?
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