If today’s YouGov poll makes good reading for David Cameron – the post-May 4th lead having been confirmed – it makes very worrying news for Menzies Campbell. "Only eight per cent of YouGov’s sample," writes Anthony King, "would like to see him in Downing Street – the lowest recorded for any Lib Dem leader since the Liberal Democrats effectively replaced the old Liberal-SDP Alliance in 1990."
The LibDem leader will attempt to reverse his party’s decline with a speech on crime today. The speech will distance the party from some of the ‘soft’ policies associated with Charles Kennedy’s leadership. Sir Menzies (who has also appointed a new spin doctor) will call for a violent crimes register, no automatic release for prisoners who are halfway through their sentences and the deportation of undesriable foreign offenders. The toughening of policy is partly the work of the new LibDem home affairs spokesman, Nick Clegg. Mr Clegg would be the candidate most likely to replace Sir Ming as LibDem leader if the party continues to struggle. A Clegg leadership, combined with a tougher policy on crime, would position the party for some sort of pact with the Tories in the event of a hung parliament. Despite all of the progress being made by David Cameron, a minority government looks more likely than for a generation.
Below the headline numbers the most encouraging YouGov finding comes on economic competence. One year ago Labour enjoyed a 22% advantage on the economy. That advantage over the Tories has shrunk to just 2% today and may explain the increasing likelihood that Gordon Brown may face a serious challenge for the Labour leadership. Labour’s retreat is not just on the economic front. Anthony King again:
"A year ago Labour led the Conservatives on no fewer than 14 of the 18 issues, with the two parties tied on a 15th. The Conservatives at that time led on only three: immigration, law and order and council tax. Now Labour leads on only nine of the 18 with the Tories ahead on the other nine."
The blots on the landscape from the YouGov poll come from the rise of the minor parties. The Greens on 4%, UKIP on 4% and the BNP on 3% contribute to a 14% total for Britain’s ‘other parties’.