Michael Brown: The future's orange (despite all that ridicule)

Cameron is acting as an unwitting press officer and recruiting sergeant for the Lib Dems

Share

"Vote Blue, go Green" is the Tory slogan for next week's local elections. But the latest ICM poll suggests it may be actually more of a case that "the future's bright, the future's orange". The poll finding, that shows Labour at its worst rating for 19 years (32 per cent) is devastating in itself, but this ought to be commensurate with a significant rise in Tory support. More devastating for the Tories is that they are only on 34 per cent - less than two points higher than their general election showing last year.

Labour is clearly finally suffering the consequences of the loans-for-peerages row, but it may be the redundancies and closures in the health service that have also accounted for this dramatic slump in support.

The parallel with John Major's government after Black Wednesday is probably overdoing it but, when a government loses the voters' confidence on issues on which it was once seen to have the strongest claims to office, it is hard to see how Labour can recover - at least under Tony Blair. The economy was the Tories' passport to power, but Black Wednesday destroyed all credibility thereafter. Could it be Labour's unique selling points on being "purer than pure" and being the party of the health service are now having the same negative effect?

But it is the Liberal Democrats, not the Tories, who appear to be the beneficiaries of disillusionment with the Government and they are now back, on 24 per cent, to their most optimistic ratings since before the 2005 general election. Less than three months ago, the Lib Dems were in the middle of the most scandal-ridden and chaotic leadership election campaign. But the short-term dip, to 15 per cent in January, in the Lib Dems ratings was quickly corrected, even in the middle of the leadership chaos, by the by-election victory for them in Dunfermline and West Fife.

This ability to withstand ridicule and bad publicity means that there is now a new, increased, permanent "core vote" for the Lib Dems that is impervious to temporary difficulties. A spokesman at Lib Dem headquarters estimates that, 10 years ago, their own "core vote" was probably no more than 5 per cent. But in recent years this has probably now increased to about 15 per cent - whatever the vicissitudes and crises of the moment.

Nevertheless, this still does not explain entirely why, after such universally good publicity David Cameron has had regarding his green credentials, there has not been any translation yet in the Tory fortunes. Of course, by definition, if there is an increased Lib Dem "core vote" there must therefore be a smaller pot of potential new voters for the Tories to attract. This means that when the Tories, or even Labour, hit relatively good times in future, there is no prospect of either ever reaching 40 per cent or more of electoral support.

I have no doubt Mr Cameron has no option but to continue with his emphasis on the green agenda. His focus groups will have told him it clearly rates highly with younger voters. And he has certainly outwitted and outsmarted Gordon Brown, whose stiff speeches on the environment last weekend in the United States contrasted appallingly badly with the compelling photo-opportunities created for the Tory leader in Norway. Thanks to Mr Cameron, all parties will be required to put the issue on the same ranking as tax, public services, and the state of the economy. But it may just be that the more salience Mr Cameron gives to the green issue, by moving it to the top of the political agenda he is acting as an unwitting press officer and recruiting sergeant for the Lib Dems.

The most compelling finding in the ICM poll was the response to the question: "Which party would do more to protect the environment?" Lib Dems led the Tories with 29 per cent compared with 22 per cent - Labour trailed with 17 per cent. This lends weight to spokesmen at Lib Dem headquarters claiming to be progressively more relaxed about the Tory leader stealing their agenda. Every time Mr Cameron mentions the subject, they are convinced that, as a consequence, they are provided with more broadcast opportunities for their own green messages.

Lib Dems also believe they have an advantage over the Tories in being able to focus voters on their policies requiring "tough choices". Voters will be sceptical of green policies that try to imply no one will be a loser. Mr Cameron's latest forays into carbon emissions appear to suggest a pain-free option where cars will still be freely driven and unrestricted cheap air travel still defended. Lib Dems have just enough voter market share and are just far enough away from power to be able to make a virtue out of their credibility by promoting painful green policies. Mr Cameron, by comparison, can only do green politics so long as it doesn't hurt voters. That looks incredible.

mrbrown@talktalk.net

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The campaigning is over. So now we wait...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
In this handout provided by NASA from the the Earth-orbiting International Space Station, weather system Arthur travels up the east coast of the United States in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida in space. The robotic arm of the Space Station Remote Manipulator System or Canadarm2 is seen at upper right. According to reports, Arthur has begun moving steadily northward at around 5 kt. and the tropical storm is expected to strike the North Carolina Outer Banks  

Thanks to government investment, commercial space travel is becoming a reality

Richard Branson
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week