and at the moment, Labour, which looked to be trapped with huge problems, is benefiting substantially from the hysteria.
David Cameron is on course for a possible general election win, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today that shows support for the Conservatives climbing to a lead that could give them a narrow majority in the Commons, while Labour has plunged to a 19-year low.
the Grauniad, today.
Ahem. It may of course just be something of a mid-summer dip, with Blair away and a lot of problems all coming to roost at the same time. What's even more gratifying for the Tories, and troubling for Labour is that this is happening when the Conservatives still don't have any set in stone or recognisable policies. Sure, Cameron launched the supposed "mini-manifesto" last week, but it got hardly any attention in the media, and three quarters of the policies are the same old half-baked ones of yore, ranging from the ridiculous, such as a "UK bill of rights", to the "Flatter and simpler" taxes, for which read less for the rich and more for the poor. Cameron also faces a backlash from grassroot Tories, unhappy with his continuing efforts to get more women candidates nominated for parliament by local constituencies. The Lib Dems also climb back up, which isn't much of a surprise. If Menzies Campbell had been a little stronger on the issue of the Middle East, and the party actually decided to try and get a higher media profile, it might do even better. At the moment it's just coasting, much as it was before Charles Kennedy was forced to resign.
The more interesting part of the poll is that on the terror threat itself. Only 1% (and considering opinion polls generally have a margin of error of around 3 to 4%, it becomes even more meaningless) think that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have made the country safer, which is perhaps the biggest indictment of Britain's foreign policy yet made. When it comes to the level of threat, the results are more ambiguous. 20% think that the government is telling the truth, 21% believe it's exaggerated, but a staggering 51% think the government is actually telling less than it knows about the threat. It has to be said that the question isn't exactly clear - are the government telling less than they know because they're exaggerating it, or less because there's an even greater threat than they're letting on? Either way, it shows that less than a quarter of the public think the government is being entirely honest.
The 51% figure though is the most worrying. If over half the public believe there's an even bigger threat than we're being told about, the government's propaganda and the media bluster is undoubtedly working, but it's not leading to support for the government - far from it, it would seem. It ties in with the Spectator poll, which apart from having horribly leading questions, showed that 53% wanted an even "tougher" response in relation to the terror threat.
You also can't blame the public for feeling attacked from all sides at the moment - at the end of the report on the 10 O'Clock News last night on the charges against the terror plot suspects, the BBC reporter needlessly reminded everyone of how one police officer had described it as a plan "to commit murder on a massive scale". Peter Clarke was on next, scaremongering about the threat and coming up with such ridiculous figures for the amount of stuff they'd seized, which must have been more or less everything the accused had in their houses, all in the aid of defending the police from suggestions that the plot was mostly invented and politically motivated. His case won't have been helped by another letter in today's Guardian, which suggests it would be possible to create TATP in an aircraft's toilet - but only if the person had uninterrupted access to it for two or more return flights to America. It's also worth remembering Lord Stevens' rant in the NOTW.
The other attack is on the immigration front, which has grown to new levels of hysteria, especially in the right wing tabloids. Tales of thousands of Romanians and Bulgarians waiting to come here and infect everyone with TB and HIV once their countries join the EU abound, not to mention the way they're forcing down wages and stealing all our jobs. When it goes on for day after day, it's also unsurprising to find 75% apparently want strict controls on the level of migrants, and the best counter-argument that the likes of the Independent can come up with is from Digby fucking Jones, the ex-head of the CBI, the organisation that supports fat cats and sticks two fingers up at the workers. He also goes on to lambast the government for turning out kids that don't know anything and don't question anything, which are the exactly the sort that he and the rest of his band of neo-liberal capitalist freedom fighters love.
Where do we go from here? From a Labour point of view, Blair has to go. His cronies have to go. Even Gordon Brown, unlikely as he is to change anything, would be better than the band of robots which continue to control the Labour front-bench. That Stephen Byers talked a load of crap over the weekend about scrapping inheritance tax, only to get slapped down, was encouraging in that there are still signs of independent thought somewhere beneath surface. From the left's standpoint, there needs to be more honesty about the real level of threat we face, and there needs to be a greater effort to tackle the nonsense talked about immigration. It's not racist to put limits on it, but it's also an act of political bankruptcy to do it just to appease the screaming the tabloids, especially when we as yet do not have the full facts. Once the conference season kicks off, things might well calm down, but for now exaggeration seems to be the order of the day.