Why are the polls narrowing? Well, we can rule out one thing. They are not narrowing because Labour is suddenly enjoying a surge in support. They are rattling around between a base of around 30 and a glass ceiling at 33 per cent of the vote.
But Tory support looks to be ebbing away faster than Stephen Byer’s career prospects. Rarely reaching to the mid-forties even when things were going for the Tories, the forty barrier seems re-erected and mid to high thirties is becoming the norm.
What has gone wrong for David Cameron when the Government still looks accident prone, economic pain endures and the image of politics continues to sink into a gutter that seems to have no bottom?
Cameron’s leadership started with him successfully winning something his three closest predecessors never had – permission to be heard.
We can debate how far he actually has reformed the Conservative Party, but riding with huskies, talking about the politics of happiness and complaining about chocolate being sold at check-outs did seem to make him look different enough to give him permission to speak and the public listened. Now they seem to have their fingers in their ears.
Yes, there has long been the suspicion that Cameron has failed to ’seal the deal’ with voters. His vision of what a Tory Britain would look like is still not very clear. But is that enough to becalm the powerful forces of ‘time for change’ which seemed to have been unleashed?
I don’t think Cameron’s stutter has been caused by any dramatic startegic move by Labour – nor indeed any major blunder by him.
It’s the failings of his class which cause the problem – and that is nothing to do with where he went to school or how posh he is.
The fall of the political class, from Cameron to Dennis Skinner, William Hague to Harriet Harman has removed his ‘permission to be heard’ as it has removed it from almost every frontbench mouthpiece on all sides. Why, even the blessèd Vince Cable seems to be doubted these days.
The expenses scandal has turned into a dripping roast of sleaze, which drip, drip, drip erodes the credibility of all politicians.
There is little sign that the public are warming to Gordon Brown. But there are signs they have come to terms with him and many have decided they can put up with him. That is why allegations about his violent temper made no impression. Gaffes and blunders don’t seem to matter. Public expectations of politicians are not high.
The PM himself has grasped this. In a recent speech he said that with him, for good or ill, what you see is what you get. He is not pretending to be perfect, or better than anyone else any more – just effective.
In a sense, if the public think politicians live in a sty, you might as well ‘oink’.
Cameron seems to be denting his own authenticity by trying to do what ‘forces of change’ are supposed to – look different from the politics they are trying to replace.
But when MPs have fiddled their expenses, go on foreign holidays to exotic locations paid for by foreign governments and flog themselves for five grand a day to the highest bidder, it is difficult to sound credible when a politician claims to be different.
He compounds this when Cameron tries to make sleaze a party political differentiator, as Blair did in 1997. In the current climate it just confirms he is a politician like the rest of them.
The background noise from the decline of politics has drowned out Cameron’s ‘permission to be heard’. The public don’t buy moral compasses any more. Playing the virgin in the brothel doesn’t work anymore.
Maybe just saying you can run the brothel better is the way to win an election when the public seems to want everyone to lose.
No double digit leads any more. Just two fingers from a public returning the contempt to politicians, which those politicians showed to the public in every expense claim they signed.
It might have worked in ‘97. But in today’s Britain, the only change people believe in, comes from a fiver, NOT a politician.