IF there was a general election tomorrow, my hunch is that both the Conservatives and Labour would be short of an overall majority – even with the Lib Dem vote heavily squeezed.
That said, the Tories prospered in 2010 because of years of assiduous campaigning to mend the bridges that had been broken by the Thatcher and Major premierships.
Take Derby where there’s a huge furore over the Government’s decision not to award a contract to build 1,200 train carriages to Bombardier.
Instead, the deal was awarded to German-based Siemens – even though 1,400 jobs could be lost and the exercises undermines David Cameron’s claim to support British businesses.
Yet, according to polls, the Tories would lose the South Derbyshire seat – captured last year – on a 10 per cent swing to Labour. And they would fare even worse in Derby North, a seat that Labour narrowly held onto in May 2010 and which the Conservatives must win if they’re to form an overall majority.
It is the same here in Yorkshire where pre-election promises to champion the regional economy are proving unreliable – the hints to save the regional development agency were no more than hints.
People are, understandably, questioning whether they can trust the Tories, though they do acknowledge the existence of Labour’s poisonous economic legacy. That said, Cameron and others must have been aware of the parlous state of the public finances before building up the public’s hopes.
The lesson to Cameron is clear – don’t promise what you can’t deliver.
HERE’S further evidence of the strain that rural and semi-rural services are being placed under, and why the Government – and others – need to start showing a far greater level of pragmatism.
The Rural Services Network this week highlighted a scheme by bus operator East Yorkshire Motor Services, which appealed for voluntary payments from pensioners entitled to free travel to save a threatened service.
The route 48 runs hourly from Hull to residential estates in the west of the city that straddle the border with the East Riding. Rather than closing it, EYMS is asking any passholder of a free bus pass to volunteer to pay the normal adult fare if they can do so.
The response from the Department of Transport in the week that it was warned that one in five urban services could be axed? It has accused bus companies of coercion by threatening to axe routes if contributions are not made.
Some free advice to Transport Secretary Philip Hammond and EYMS chairman Peter Shipp – get it sorted lads.
AS politicians embarrass their profession with even more rash promises, Nick Clegg has been reported saying that employment experts will be at the prison gates when some of the riot culprits are released from custody to make sure they have jobs to go to.
That’s all very well – but don’t those law-abiding people left jobless because of the riots deserve priority treatment?
ON the subject of the riots, I find myself agreeing – for once – with Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.
As regular readers will know, I’m not a fan of Boris – he’s a walking disaster and his influence in Tory high circles means the North continues to be short-changed on issues like transport. That said, Johnson was spot on when he wrote this week: “It used to be said that you can’t tackle the problems of education without tackling poverty. In fact, it is the other way round. You can’t tackle poverty without tackling education.”
The problem, as is so often the case with the Mayor, is that these words of wisdom were in the middle of a long-winded diatribe that started with him bemoaning the success of the England cricket team.
If you can make the link...
I’M guessing that David Cameron would like to model his premiership on that of Margaret Thatcher.
Not a bit of it, says a former Cabinet minister who suggests that Cameron is a modern Edward Heath.
Why? “His stubbornness,” I’m told. “He picks the wrong issues to dig his feet in,” adds the ex-Minister who cites Cameron’s refusal to dispense with the services of ex-News of the World editor Andy Coulson once the phone hacking row became public as prima facie evidence.And this was several days before it emerged that Coulson was still on the News International payroll while directing Cameron’s communications team.
DAVID Cameron showed great statesmanship when the Saville inquiry into Bloody Sunday was published. His immediate apology for the conduct of British troops won plaudits from all sections of Northern Ireland.
He should now do likewise over the Hillsborough disaster and release sensitive documents about the police and political handling of the 1989 disaster – even if this embarrasses the then Tory government of Margaret Thatcher.
The families still want answers over how 96 loved ones died at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground and their 100,000 signatures on a Parliamentary petition should now trigger a Commons debate.
The Government has promised to release the relevant details to the inquiry now underway, but the timing remains vague. It would be better for Cameron to act now rather than allow the rank hypocrisy of Labour frontbencher Andy Burnham to persist.
Effectively, Burnham is accusing the PM of a cover-up – even though he had it within his power to release the documents when he addressed Liverpool fans at Anfield on the tragedy’s 20th anniversary when he was Culture Secretary.
THERE is one fringe benefit to Speaker’s wife Sally Bercow demeaning herself still further in the Celebrity Big Brother house. No sane Labour constituency will adopt her as a prospective MP.