Jackie Ashley wrote an interesting article in the Guardian recently, where she examined the tactics that Labour has been using against the Conservatives.
She observes correctly that the public don't really view Cameron as an extreme Thatcherite regardless of what his actual policies are - his persona is comfortably fat and fluffy. (She didn't point out that George Osborne does look hatchet-faced, but the Tories are carefully keeping him out of sight).
She also made the point that the toff attack doesn't really work because most people recognise that they have no control over whom they are born to, indeed you don't really have much control over the first eighteen years of your life. (What you do after age eighteen is fair game; so attacks for joining Bullingdon are valid because it shows the mindset of the adult, whereas attacks for going to Eton are really attacks on a man's parents, whom as a child he couldn't control)
Further the toff attack makes some in Labour itself uneasy. Keir Hardie, our founder over a century ago made a point of inviting the middle-class and upper-middle-class Fabians to merge with his working class Independent Labour Party, the trade unions and the co-operative movement to create The Labour Party in 1900. Hardie's view was that it didn't really matter where you came from, in a true egalitarian society everyone was equal and it was your values, what you believed that counted. Thus such men as Attlee were welcomed into the Labour party in 1908.
The true class-based party at the moment is the BNP - their entire appeal is down to the perceived victimhood of a certain class and race, and they exclude all others. If you truly believe in egalitarianism and inclusiveness, as do all Labour people, then class-based politics have to be rejected, because how can you create a truly equal society if a segment of society is pitted against another based on circumstances of birth (whether class or race) that they have no control over?
I believe the toff attack hasn't really worked because Labour's heart just isn't in it. We'd be better off campaigning on something we truly believe in - such as egalitarianism and equality: if the poor have to pay tax, then so should rich folk like Michael Ashcroft and Zac Goldsmith; if the poor are slung into jail for drug-taking, so should the rich and so on. The Tory idea of one rule for elites and another for the council estates is just plain wrong as well as unfair.
However, despite the strategic mis-hits, Labour has been clawing back position in the polls since late Oct. The vast Tory leads of earlier in the year where BPIX put them 22 points ahead and Populus put them 20 points ahead have evaporated, and the gap on average is between 6 and 12 points. Why has this happened?
In my opinion it's all down to Cameron dumping his "cast-iron guarantee" on Europe. He not only annoyed eurosceptics, he made centrists and moderates very nervous indeed.
If he knew he couldn't actually deliver on the policy, why make pledges in such concrete terms? Is he a con-man, or someone who simply can't see two steps forward to the consequences of his decisions? (His trip to Georgia during the Georgia-Russia war, to promise them Britain would send troops to fight Russia suggests the latter. What sort of idiot wants to send Britain to war with Russia? What sort of idiot makes these pledges without checking who is in the wrong (the UN concluded that far from being a victim, Georgia had provoked the war)). If Cameron can't keep cast-iron guarantees to his own supporters, then will he also dump mere promises to look after the NHS? What does he actually believe in? Is he sunshine, is he austerity, is he a weather-vane who can be blown all over the place by people more powerful than him?
More and more you hear the old story about him cycling to work while having his gas-guzzler chauffeur his briefcase behind him. Labour's first attempt to define him, those chameleon ads inspired by an idea John Prescott had, turn out to be on the mark.
That princess of pop and populism, Cheryl Cole put it best. "David Cameron. Brrrrr. Slippery isn't he?" she says in her interview with Q magazine. She's voting Labour. "Better the devil you know." The vast middle of Britain who spend more time watching X-Factor than the news will agree with her. They may not follow every twist and turn of politics, but they are shrewd about grasping the big picture. Labour's big strength in this election is that we are known quantities.
I think we should fight the election on the "cast-iron guarantee" question. If he can't keep "cast-iron" guarantees, can we trust any promises and pledges he makes? Does he believe anything he says? Or is he thinking no further than the next morning's photo-shoot? This is not only no time for a novice, it's no time for a flim-flam photo-shoot guy who doesn't know his own mind either.