A new Populus poll for The Times gives Cameron’s Conservatives a 1% lead. A very slight recovery in LibDem support (compared to last month’s poll) appears to have disproportionately hurt the Labour Party.
This is the first time that a Populus poll has put the Tories in the lead. Mr Cameron has lifted the Tories by about 6% since inheriting the Tory crown at the beginning of December. Fourteen years of post-Black Wednesday flatlining appears to be over.
For The Times, Peter Riddell suggests that crucial to the Tory recovery is increased support amongst the middle classes (now above 40% for Mr Cameron).
But why is the Conservative Party winning extra support amongst the middle classes (Curtisland)? I would hope it is because they like Mr Cameron’s finely-tuned social conscience. My fear, however, is that we’re winning over middle class opponents of the Iraq war. The Times’ poll also reveals that support for withdrawal from Iraq is highest amongst Conservative supporters (63%). I hope Michael Gove is concerned at this triumph of these Michael Moore Conservatives? Their ascendancy really is a scandal and partly reflects the failure of the Conservative leadership to invest any time in explaining the importance of prevailing in Iraq. Only IDS (the Editor’s part-time employer) has made any serious attempt to mount a defence of the Iraq campaign in recent times. A number of today’s newspapers report accusations that Mr Cameron is playing politics with Iraq (see here and here). The newspapers report Mr Cameron’s suggestion that the LibDems and Tories are now on the same page on Iraq as if it were news. Mr Cameron’s "I say to Liberal Democrats everywhere: we’re on the same side now [on Iraq]" actually backdates to 16 December 2005.
Whatever the truth behind the Tory poll recovery Mr Cameron’s repositioning has already had a dramatic impact on the Liberal Democrats and it may be beginning to rattle the much more formidable Gordon Brown. Mr Brown has today attacked Tory suggestions that he is the roadblock to reform and his aides yesterday criticised David Cameron for "plundering" the Chancellor’s ideas (on constitutional reform).