I have no idea whether or not yesterday's Sunday Times poll is the game changer it purports to be, though it is interesting to see how the underlying questions suggest that the David Cameron and George Osborne - especially, I suspect, the latter - have lost ground on confidence issues that had propelled them into double-digit leads just a few months ago. But the biggest problem the Tories face was exemplified in Cameron's lacklustre speech yesterday: he all but declared that people had a 'patriotic duty' to vote Conservative. No, they haven't, and it is the height of arrogance to suggest they do. Indeed, had we listened to Osborne on the banks, many of us would be as poor as Argentinians were after their banks collapsed at the turn of the Millennium, as their savings turned to dust. Some patriotic duty.
With signs of recovery, people are right to be distrustful of Osborne's medicine now. Equally, the Tories continue to leave the BMA spokesman Andrew Lansley in charge of health policies that will increase inefficiency in the NHS while greatly reducing patient care, and Cameron says that this man knows more about the NHS than anyone else alive. If he does, one only wonders why he has been keeping it to himself all this time. The list goes on: Theresa Villiers trying to wreck plans for high-speed rail and sideline our most important airport; Jeremy Hunt, the media spokesman set on wrecking the BBC. Add to that the preening arrogance of young Tory wannabees who loudly declare in bars near Millbank and Westminster the jobs that they will have in a new Government - to sharp intakes of breath from non-partisan folk nearby - and the renewed sense of entitlement being displayed in Tory-Labour marginals like mine, and you can see why the polls are narrowing.
That's not to say that Labour has been getting it right: too many of our policies remain unfocused, and we have not found a way either to articulate the progress and vision in our public services, especially education. The Budget must not shirk from an honest assessment of what the economy needs and what it will require to halve the deficit over four years. But we now have a chance to start winning these arguments, as swing voters think twice about the Tories. It is a small window, and it is vital that ministers and those in no 10 grab it while they have the chance.
I don't think it's just a matter of articulating our vision. I think victory will be more about presenting Tory policies as kicking away the life-support system of a patient in recovery.
It is this image that will resonate with the electorate, not fancy visions which very few believe in these days. Our campaign team should be pushing it night and day from hereon.
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