Is now the time for a trading bet on Labour?
Could the opportunistic call on Andrew Marr’s programme by UKIP’S leader, Nigel Farage, for Tory MPs to defect over the grammar school issue be a foretaste of how things might get very tricky for the Tory leadership in the next few months.
Of course there are not going to be any defections to UKIP but the Farage interview does underline the challenges that the leadership faces.
- Until now the conventional thinking has been that Cameron could pull his party as far as he wanted to the centre ground because the right has nowhere else to go.
But all that has been based on him being seen to be a winner and the gloss could be taken off that if the expected Brown poll bounce starts to happen.
Will Cameron be more vulnerable to attacks from the right if Brown’s Labour gets within a couple of per cent in the polls and his image as a winner starts to get tarnished? For it does not take much Labour movement before the Commons seat calculators are showing an overall Brown majority.
And if so is there just a danger that the whole Cameron project could unwind? Probably not but the strategy of decontaminating the Tory brand is based on appealing to the middle ground and any dilution of that effort could be damaging.
Whatever his presentational shortcomings Gordon is the great political strategist and we can expect policy moves designed solely to open up rifts between Cameron and his right flank.
For there can be little doubt that the apparent policy change on grammar schools has touched some raw nerves within the party. The noise level from the traditionalists in the past week has probably been greater than the “Polly Toynbee” episode before Christmas.
Certainly the Cameron gang will be waiting nervously for May ICM poll, which should be out in the Guardian tomorrow. In recent months this has been showing the best figures of all for the Tories. What if Brown’s Labour has made real inroads? Watch this space.
At this stage I am not making any predictions on the general election – what I am trying to do is to make lots of small trading profits by predicting changes in short-term sentiment.