IcmThe Tories are back over 40% in the latest ConservativeHome Poll of Polls.  All thanks to an ICM survey for tomorrow’s News of the World (not yet online).  The Tories are up 4% to 41% (compared to the most recent ICM poll) and Labour are down one point to 30% and the LibDems have fallen back below 20%, by 2% to 19%.  ComRes, YouGov, MORI and now ICM all have the Conservatives at 40% or more.  We’ll see if Populus echo the trend in the next few days.

We still have the question mark in the graphic above as we await the outcome of the race to succeed Menzies Campbell (for a laugh btw watch this Rory Bremner sketch taking off Ming’s resignation).  If a YouGov survey is to be believed that yellow box will be filled by the smiling face of Nick Clegg.  According to PoliticalBetting Nick Clegg has a 56% to 44% lead over Chris Huhne among those LibDem members who’ve already cast their ballots.  That’s a thinner margin than expected and confirmation, perhaps, of the effect of Huhne’s vigorous campaign.  With half of those sampled by YouGov still to vote, Clegg cannot take victory for granted, however.

The interim leader that Clegg and Huhne will succeed – who stole PMQs this week with that Mr Bean joke, Vince Cable, pens a devasting critique of Gordon Brown for tomorrow’s Mail on Sunday:

"He has a belief in the secular equivalent of papal infallibility: a near-religious faith in the capacity of central government and its army of civil servants to improve our lives and never make mistakes.  When Gordon Brown quotes the sage of Kirkcaldy, Adam Smith, Smith must be turning in his grave.  Smith was Britain’s – perhaps the world’s – greatest economist who understood two centuries ago the perils of big government.  He was particularly contemptuous of cosy relationships between business and governments, supposedly working together in the national interest.  He would have a wry smile for the queues of Government-dependent PFI contractors, defence manufacturers, nuclear-power and airport lobbyists passing through the revolving doors of Downing Street in the Brown-Blair years.  No one who has ever been involved in the management of large organisations would have such a naive belief in the capacity of government targets, directions, protocols and regulations to change behaviour for the better.  In practice, when things go wrong, they go terribly wrong.  The Government’s belief that the recent loss of 25million records was some random, isolated, low-level event without wider significance sums up Gordon Brown’s myopic but over-ambitious approach to government.  In fact, numerous costly errors arising from over-centralisation have been made in Gordon Brown’s Treasury from day one. But they were forgiven and forgotten in the warm glow of national prosperity.  Badly thought-out, impractical schemes such as Individual Learning Accounts and Film Tax Credits were started and abandoned at the cost of hundreds of millions."

Mr Brown will be more worried, however, by remarks by Alan Milburn in The Sunday Times.  Up until now  the Blairites have been pretty loyal but Milburn, freshly returned from Kevin Rudd’s victory in Australia, writes that "Howard lost because he ran out of ideas and got out of touch."   Milburn continues: "[John Howard] thought he could overcome ‘time for change’ by relying on the strength of the economy but he couldn’t come up with a compelling agenda for the future.The only way Milburn could have been clearer as to the target for his message was if he’d substituted "vision" for "agenda" in that final sentence.

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