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22 April 2015

Why the Tories still have a spring in their step

Senior Conservatives are drawing comfort from Binyamin Netanyhu's late comeback in the Israeli elections.

By Stephen Bush

Why aren’t the Tories more worried about the course of the election campaign? In the autumn of last year they were predicting they would take a lead by Christmas. Then January. Then the Easter Weekend. Now the promised moment when the electorate looks at the whites of Ed Miliband’s eyes and returns to the loving embrace of David Cameron has been delayed until the last ten days of the campaign.

Simon Heffer, who writes in the NS this week, suggests that the Conservatives are drawing hope from an unexpected source – the Israeli elections. Binyamin Netanyahu had been expected to lose until the last days of the campaign, when he turned it around in the last few days with anti-Arab rhetoric and a return to Netanyahu’s favoured issues of security and defence. Senior Conservatives now believe that an equivalent focus on the threat of Miliband propped up by the SNP will have the same effect on Ukip-aligned voters and soft Labour supporters. That the polls in Israel underestimated the scale of Likud’s support has also put a spring in Tory steps, who still hope that Labour’s vote share will be below that of the polls.

Of the mood among the Tories, Heffer writes:

Candidates know the campaign must be ‘turbocharged’, not least because of its length, with punters bored and the players exhausted. ‘There was a calculation that Miliband would bog it,’ one observed. ‘He hasn’t – yet – so we must think again.’ And despite the obstacles to a pro-Tory majority, a minister invited comparison not with 1992, but with the recent Netanyahu victory in Israel, which polls had discounted.

That victory happened only by Netanyahu warning of Arabs taking over Israel. Will Cameron warn of the Scots doing the same to England?”

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Are the Tories right? What is certain is that the SNP attack line is certainly starting to cut through on the doorstep and is spooking Labour candidates. But whether or not it will actually shift opinion is another question. Netanyahu was able to draw on a reputation – or a rap sheet, depending on your perspective – of toughness and aggression toward’s Israel’s enemies. Cameron simply isn’t seen in the same way by British voters. Remember, too, that Israeli polling is much more volatile than Britain’s. The quick answer is that it’s too early to tell whether or not the Tories will succeed in overturning the odds.

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