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17 November 2009

Cameron hasn’t “closed the deal”

Guardian front page ignores signs of Labour comeback

By George Eaton

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.

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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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