Has this been made to be as damaging as possible?

Has this been made to be as damaging as possible?

    Will Labour MPs respond to the Guardian’s call for Brown to be challenged?

guardian20070220.jpgThis is the front page of the Guardian that will be screaming out across newstands throughout the UK this morning and it looks as though it has been designed deliberately to make it as damaging as possible for the Chancellor.

For as any newspaper man or woman will tell you it is what appears “above the fold” that matters – and with the numbers 29-42 splashed there against pictures of Brown and Cameron in the most sensational way nobody could accuse the Guardian of underplaying their ICM February poll this morning.

As I wrote when news of the survey came out last night – “A lot will depend on how the Guardian choose to report the poll tomorrow”. Well we have our answer.

For as happens so often with polls it is not the numbers themselves that matter but how the paper that commissioned the survey chooses to play it and what aspects it seeks to blow up.

In his report on the findings Julian Glover noted that “The result suggests that Labour hopes that recent stories about Mr Cameron’s past would drive voters away from the Conservatives have come to nothing…The poll was carried out last weekend, after press reports about the Tory leader’s use of cannabis at school and suggestions in some quarters that he had used hard drugs. The poll also follows the publication of a photograph of Mr Cameron dressed as a member of Oxford’s exclusive Bullingdon dining club, which prompted suggestions that the Tory leader, an old Etonian, would be seen as a elitist toff who could afford dress up in £1,000 jackets.”

In its main leader the paper notes bitingly: “It is usual for an outgoing party leader to be replaced by someone more popular than themselves, but in the case of the impending Labour succession things seem to be the other way around. Mention Mr Cameron’s name, and the Tory vote rises.”

    My interpretation of the poll is that this is not so much about Brown but about Cameron. The more the Tory leader is in the news the higher his poll ratings go. Conversely the more that Brown figures on the news agenda the worse it seems to get. The Chancellor certainly did not help himself with last week’s World Cup bid announcement.

In the Labour leadership betting the Brown price has eased from 0.19/1 to 0.21/1 overnight. It might drift a touch more this morning.

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