Cameron hasn't "closed the deal"

Guardian front page ignores signs of Labour comeback

The latest ICM poll offers some good news for Labour. The party has cut the Conservatives' lead by 4 points, rising to its highest level in an ICM poll since April.

But you wouldn't know it looking at the Guardian's front page this morning. The paper proclaims, on the basis of a few non-voting character questions, that David Cameron is "closing the deal" and that voters now see him as "PM-in-waiting". It's not surprising that Cameron leads Brown on the question of who would be a "good prime minister", but we don't live in a presidential system, and so the election may not be won or lost on that basis.

Given that Labour is eating into the Tories' poll lead (and could deny Cameron a working majority even though 10 points behind), it's rather premature to declare that the Tory leader is "closing the deal".

Over at PoliticalBetting, Mike Smithson suggests that the paper's deferential coverage could be a reward for Cameron's decision to abandon a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

This seems unlikely. Europe is one of the few policy areas on which the Guardian has genuinely attempted to hold the Tory leader to account. The day after his U-turn on Lisbon, the paper led with the French Europe minister's outburst against the "autistic" Tories.

The Guardian's distorted coverage instead reflects the reality that, in the current climate, "Cameron is closing the deal" is a sexier headline than "Labour comeback begins". All papers like to appear on the side of the future. That's the reason several right-wing titles (including, remarkably, the Daily Express) endorsed New Labour. The Guardian, in its own way, is no exception to this rule.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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