Poll shows why Labour must get after Cameron

Brown should expose the popular Tory leader in debate

From the Conservative conference

Today's Times poll showing that David Cameron remains far more popular than his party has some important implications for Labour strategy. The Populus poll found that 68 per cent of voters view the party as unchanged under Cameron's leadership.

But the Conservatives have changed since Cameron became leader. They have become even more Eurosceptic. They have committed themselves to even more regressive tax cuts. It's up to Labour to ensure Cameron does not remain untainted by these developments.

While Labour is seen as more likely than the Conservatives (by 46 to 36 per cent) to protect front-line public services, this advantage is reversed when voters are asked to compare Gordon Brown with Cameron (42 to 45 per cent). Clearly Cameron's pledge to ring-fence NHS spending has had some impact. The Tory leader is even seen as more likely than Brown to spread "the burden of cuts fairly". Brown's disastrous decision to abolish the 10p tax rate did much to destroy his reputation for fairness.

Cameron is more popular than his party, and that is one of the main reasons why the Tories are so keen on the proposed television debates between party leaders. The more they can make the election seem like a presidential contest between Cameron and Brown, the more likely they are to win a large majority. But the debates would also provide Brown with a clear opportunity to expose Cameron as the reactionary he is, and it's one he'd be right to take.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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It's Gary Lineker 1, the Sun 0

The football hero has found himself at the heart of a Twitter storm over the refugee children debate.

The Mole wonders what sort of topsy-turvy universe we now live in where Gary Lineker is suddenly being called a “political activist” by a Conservative MP? Our favourite big-eared football pundit has found himself in a war of words with the Sun newspaper after wading into the controversy over the age of the refugee children granted entry into Britain from Calais.

Pictures published earlier this week in the right-wing press prompted speculation over the migrants' “true age”, and a Tory MP even went as far as suggesting that these children should have their age verified by dental X-rays. All of which leaves your poor Mole with a deeply furrowed brow. But luckily the British Dental Association was on hand to condemn the idea as unethical, inaccurate and inappropriate. Phew. Thank God for dentists.

Back to old Big Ears, sorry, Saint Gary, who on Wednesday tweeted his outrage over the Murdoch-owned newspaper’s scaremongering coverage of the story. He smacked down the ex-English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, in a single tweet, calling him a “racist idiot”, and went on to defend his right to express his opinions freely on his feed.

The Sun hit back in traditional form, calling for Lineker to be ousted from his job as host of the BBC’s Match of the Day. The headline they chose? “Out on his ears”, of course, referring to the sporting hero’s most notable assets. In the article, the tabloid lays into Lineker, branding him a “leftie luvvie” and “jug-eared”. The article attacked him for describing those querying the age of the young migrants as “hideously racist” and suggested he had breached BBC guidelines on impartiality.

All of which has prompted calls for a boycott of the Sun and an outpouring of support for Lineker on Twitter. His fellow football hero Stan Collymore waded in, tweeting that he was on “Team Lineker”. Leading the charge against the Murdoch-owned title was the close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Channel 4 News economics editor, Paul Mason, who tweeted:

Lineker, who is not accustomed to finding himself at the centre of such highly politicised arguments on social media, responded with typical good humour, saying he had received a bit of a “spanking”.

All of which leaves the Mole with renewed respect for Lineker and an uncharacteristic desire to watch this weekend’s Match of the Day to see if any trace of his new activist persona might surface.


I'm a mole, innit.