No Mercy for Ming: The Polls May Be Bad for David Cameron, but They Are Even Worse for Menzies Campbell. the Knives Are out for Him, Even If He Cannot Yet See Them

By Prince, Rosa | New Statesman (1996), August 20, 2007 | Go to article overview

No Mercy for Ming: The Polls May Be Bad for David Cameron, but They Are Even Worse for Menzies Campbell. the Knives Are out for Him, Even If He Cannot Yet See Them


Prince, Rosa, New Statesman (1996)


August has proved the cruellest month for David Cameron. After the grammar schools debacle, a calamitous decision to swap flood-soaked Witney for Rwanda and the dual by-election disaster, he has now notched up his worst poll ratings since becoming Tory leader.

To cap it all, the uber-right-winger John Redwood then took to the stage--while the Tory leader was absent on a family holiday--to unveil a tranche of decidedly un-Cameroonian policies.

Cameron's dilemma is how to rein his rebellious party back to the centre ground while avoiding a full-on rebellion on his right flank. Not an easy task from a position of weakness.

According to a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times of 12 August, the Tories are now lagging ten points behind Labour. Worse still for Cameron, the Brown bounce has led to a slide in the number who think he is doing a good job, down from 54 per cent in April to just 29 per cent now. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Brown glories in a score of 65 per cent.

Yet a closer look at the figures shows that Cameron is not the only leader for whom the YouGov poll could spell disaster.

Sir Menzies Campbell is thought to be doing an even worse job than Cameron, with only 24 per cent giving him a vote of confidence, down 3 per cent in just four months. The Liberal Democrats are now languishing on 14 per cent--lower than at any time (bar one blip discussed later) since the 2005 general election.

Sir Ming's perilous position has largely failed to make the headlines, partly because the collapse in his party's standing has come in steady dribs and drabs--a percentage point here, a percentage point there. But the decline is no less significant for that.

It is often joked that Sir Ming is less popular sober than Charles Kennedy was drunk--and it's true that the heady 23 per cent scored by the Lib Dems at the last general election seems a long way off.

The one rogue result when the party's standing was lower than now came around the time Kennedy's drink problem was exposed, leading to his swift despatch. Even then, support stood at 13 per cent--just 1 per cent less than now.

The new 2 per cent slither to 14 per cent brought Lib Dem groans, not because they thought it was bad (they did), but because it was not quite dreadful enough. The party that sees itself as "nice" knows an assassination is urgently required, but no one quite has the gumption to wield the knife against mild-mannered Ming. …

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