The first polls since the McBride "Smeargate" scandal broke have shown Labour's rating plunge dramatically. Both ConservativeHome and politicalbetting have details of a poll by a sister company to ICM called Marketing Sciences Limited.
The poll numbers are:
Conservative 43% (-1)
Labour 26% (-5)
Liberal Democrat 21% (+3)
A disastrous result for Labour and an encouraging result for the Liberal Democrats which has very much vindicated Nick Clegg's stance on Smeargate. The Liberal Democrat leader has kept a low profile arguing with some justification that, linked to the row over MPs expenses, the McBride affair is wholly damaging to the whole of politics.
The faux outrage from Tory bloggers and Tory activists has convinced no one and indeed has evoked memories of Conservative sleaze from the mid-90s.
Let me be very clear - the activities of McBride and Draper were inappropriate and the use of inaccurate smears against leading Tories isn't acceptable BUT, and it's worth saying, as John Major famously said "politics is a rough trade". I've seen leaflets produced by ALL parties that have been close to the line and occasionally well over it. I'm convinced the Conservatives will target Gordon Brown personally during the next election and that's fair enough.
I do think the Conservatives are vulnerable on policy and attacking them on that should be the objective at the next election. George Osborne has clearly decided that public spending cuts rather than tax rises will be the order of the day but, of course, he has rushed to defend Tory sacred cows and refused to give any detail as to what will be cut, by how much and when.
The Conservative refusal to countenance tax rises to control the appalling levels of public debt is a grave error of judgement. Cuts in public spending will hurt if they are to be effective and though some on the Right may claim that there is now an appetite for these cuts, it remains to be seen how popular these cuts will really be when they are much closer to home.