Cameron v Brown: the video war

Who will win the contest for Most Convincing International Statesman?

Ah, the joys of new media. And, more to the point, politicians doing new media. And, even more to the point (I am so near the point now I can nearly touch it), politicians competing with each other on who can do new media better.

"This is how to CONNECT," I hear them cry from the bunkers of Westminster. "We will talk straight into their homes. It will be like being IN their homes. They will become our friends!"

And so to two recent offerings from Teams Brown and Cameron, or in their YouTube guises: webcamerontv and Number10. This time they have taken the cameras to Afghanistan: it's the Battle of the International Statesmen.

 

 

Spot the difference: Brown wears a smart suit whereas Cameron wants to show he's down with the troops and sports a bullet-proof contraption. (Although once he's talking to the troops he's back in his Oxfordshire-constituency-roaring-British-fires woolly jumper which rather undermines the pervious hardman look.)

Other highlights: Brown trying to banter with heroically patient troops; the soldier standing behind Cameron whose eyes keep veering to the left; Cameron's weird "opposition" joke (I suspect there was a Conservative Party New Media recruit brought along for the ride to hold up a sign saying "Laugh now please, if you would" at appropriate moments.)

The winner? On video views, Cameron by a mile. On statesmanlike dignity? The troops. For gamely tolerating the whole thing.

 

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.