The long war officially started on 2nd January when David Cameron launched the Tory election campaign in Woodstock.He didn’t really have a lot new to say, so the big idea was that he would let opposition MPs attend any war cabinet under his premiership. Not exactly a big vote winner in middle England, but it should’ve grabbed a few headlines from news-starved journos after the Christmas break. Trouble for them is that Alistair Darling, without the money to spend on hi tech campaigning, went both low tech and old school by producing a very detailed briefing book rebutting all of Dave’s plans and highlighting a funding gap of up to £60billion. Dave got muddled over his own policies and closed a press conference after taking six questions. Labour’s Darling takes every question in the room at his briefing and doesn’t get at all muddled. Two points to Labour there.
The following Wednesday brought PMQs, and Gordon had a stormer. He batted away Cameron like Dave was, well, a Libdem backbencher. Great stuff. Then all hell broke loose when Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt went way way off-message calling for a secret ballot on GB’s leadership of the party. They were obviously expecting, either because they’d been told or because they had some kind of mental aberration, that at least one cabinet member was going to support them and thus force a leadership contest. But nobody followed, Hoon and Hewitt were villified by the membership and some cabinet members lost a lot of political capital. Even though Labour killed the coup dead in the press that weekend, it was still an own goal from Labour there.
The Tory high command regrouped after their damp squib of a campaign launch, and Cameron decided to go on childcare policy. Dave gave his launch speech at a Demos event accompanied by Frank Field (which almost scored points for the Tories but for the fact that Frank Field has a history of making trouble for his party’s leaders and therefore wasn’t news). The content of Dave’s speech was a little more newsworthy however. He essentially distorted the findings of Demos’s study and implied that people who come from the poorest backgrounds are at no significant statistical disadvantage when compared to those from wealthier ones. Half a point to the Tories for Field’s appearance, one point against for the lack of meat or sense on their policy which was fairly quickly torn apart.
Shadow Chancellor Osborne reared his head to remind us of the Tories slash and burn economics policies which were outdated in 1932 and have proved to be a disaster in Ireland, the only country in the world to follow them. He’s kept a very low profile since then, probably on orders of CCHQ. Then the following day, the press went with the story that Andrew Lansley, shadow health secretary, had taken payments from a company responsible for private healthcare. Added to Dan Hannan’s famous remarks and Cameron’s meetings with Nurses for Reform, it didn’t bode well for the NHS. On the other hand, Peter Watt released his book to try and cash in on his time as General Secretary of the Labour Party. It didn’t make headlines, but wasn’t too helpful either. Own goal to Labour, but two for the Tories.
Yesterday the Conservatives went with education this time to see if they could get one of their policy launches right. They couldn’t. Their education policy was a mixture of old announcements rehashed and new policy that seemed to reverse their positions. A few months ago, they appointed Carol Vorderman as an advisor on education and suggested armed forces veterans could be fast-tracked as teachers. Yesterday, only those with the best qualifications should apply and maths genius Carol Vorderman wouldn’t be fit to teach maths to anyone. Yet another own goal.
If it wasn’t for the soft media ride Cameron and co. are getting, the masses would be howling with derisory laughter, but that’s for another blogpost.
So, in this first month of the long campaign so far I make that Labour 1, Conservatives minus 2 and a half.
Not that anyone is keeping score of course.