Marginal voters rate Brown more highly than Cameron

Brown ahead of Cameron on almost every leadership measure in new poll.

There's a fascinating new Reuters/Ipsos MORI poll out which shows that voters in the key marginals rate Gordon Brown more highly than David Cameron.

As the graphs below show, marginal voters believe that Brown best understands the problems facing Britain and the world, and that he has a better understanding than Cameron and Nick Clegg of policy detail. What's more, he's rated as more capable and better in a crisis.

The findings contradict the received wisdom that while marginal voters still have reservations about the Conservative Party, they have been won over by Cameron's leadership.

Many Tories have only tolerated Cameron in the belief that he is an asset to the party. But if the Conservative leader starts to be seen as a hindrance rather than a help, that could all change.

mori-poll-marginals-leadership

The headline figures from the poll, which surveyed voters in the marginals Cameron must win to secure a majority, show the Tories on 38 per cent (up 1 point on two weeks ago), Labour unchanged on 41 per cent and the Lib Dems also unchanged on 38 per cent.

That represents a swing of 5.5 per cent to the Tories since the 2005 election, but Cameron needs a swing of 6.9 per cent nationally to win a majority in the Commons.

Reflecting the tightness of the polls, the proportion of voters who expect a hung parliament has increased from 55 per cent to 63 per cent.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The economics of outrage: Why you haven't seen the end of Katie Hopkins

Her distasteful tweet may have cost her a job at LBC, but this isn't the last we've seen of Britain's biggest troll. 

Another atrocity, other surge of grief and fear, and there like clockwork was the UK’s biggest troll. Hours after the explosion at the Manchester Arena that killed 22 mostly young and female concert goers, Katie Hopkins weighed in with a very on-brand tweet calling for a “final solution” to the complex issue of terrorism.

She quickly deleted it, replacing the offending phrase with the words “true solution”, but did not tone down the essentially fascist message. Few thought it had been an innocent mistake on the part of someone unaware of the historical connotations of those two words.  And no matter how many urged their fellow web users not to give Hopkins the attention she craved, it still sparked angry tweets, condemnatory news articles and even reports to the police.

Hopkins has lost her presenting job at LBC radio, but she is yet to lose her column at Mail Online, and it’s quite likely she won’t.

Mail Online and its print counterpart The Daily Mail have regularly shown they are prepared to go down the deliberately divisive path Hopkins was signposting. But even if the site's managing editor Martin Clarke was secretly a liberal sandal-wearer, there are also very good economic reasons for Mail Online to stick with her. The extreme and outrageous is great at gaining attention, and attention is what makes money for Mail Online.

It is ironic that Hopkins’s career was initially helped by TV’s attempts to provide balance. Producers could rely on her to provide a counterweight to even the most committed and rational bleeding-heart liberal.

As Patrick Smith, a former media specialist who is currently a senior reporter at BuzzFeed News points out: “It’s very difficult for producers who are legally bound to be balanced, they will sometimes literally have lawyers in the room.”

“That in a way is why some people who are skirting very close or beyond the bounds of taste and decency get on air.”

But while TV may have made Hopkins, it is online where her extreme views perform best.  As digital publishers have learned, the best way to get the shares, clicks and page views that make them money is to provoke an emotional response. And there are few things as good at provoking an emotional response as extreme and outrageous political views.

And in many ways it doesn’t matter whether that response is negative or positive. Those who complain about what Hopkins says are also the ones who draw attention to it – many will read what she writes in order to know exactly why they should hate her.

Of course using outrageous views as a sales tactic is not confined to the web – The Daily Mail prints columns by Sarah Vine for a reason - but the risks of pushing the boundaries of taste and decency are greater in a linear, analogue world. Cancelling a newspaper subscription or changing radio station is a simpler and often longer-lasting act than pledging to never click on a tempting link on Twitter or Facebook. LBC may have had far more to lose from sticking with Hopkins than Mail Online does, and much less to gain. Someone prepared to say what Hopkins says will not be out of work for long. 

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