Calm down Nick, it's not going to happen

IT would be a foolish Liberal Democrat who took at face value one of the latest opinion polls showing the party is on 22% , just three points behind Labour and well adrift of the soaraway Tories.

Graham Dines

IT would be a foolish Liberal Democrat who took at face value one of the latest opinion polls showing the party is on 22% , just three points behind Labour and well adrift of the soaraway Tories.

If the outcome of the election was indeed to be Conservatives 41%, Labour 25%, and Lib Dems 22%, Labour would still end up with five or six times as many MPs as Nick Clegg's Lib Dems.

That's because the Conservatives, to be in such a strong position, would win half the constituencies currently held by Lib Dem MPs, and Labour MPs in much of Scotland, England's remaining industrial heartlands, and south Wales have huge majorities that makes them all but invincible.

The Tory poll lead is recovering to the levels David Cameron enjoyed in May last year when Boris Johnson was elected London mayor and the Conservatives swept Labour aside in the Crewe & Nantwich by-election.

There was a brief respite for Labour in the autumn of last year as Gordon Brown set out on his crusade to save the world. But voters don't believe any more that the Government played no role in the economic downfall and are defecting to other parties in protest.

Most Read

Another poll this week by Ipsos-MORI for Sky News gives the Tories a 20-point lead over Labour - Conservatives 48% (up 4%), Labour 28% (down two) and the Lib Dems (17%). But Labour, already fretting over the threat from the British National Party, has becoming anxious that it could be overtaken by the Lib Dems in June's election to the European Parliament.

The ComRes poll for The Times which is so freaking out activists on the LabourHome web site showed a 7% decline in Labour support, matched by a 7% surge for the Lib Dems. Although it has the hallmarks of a rogue poll, it is damaging nonetheless because it is demoralising party workers who need convincing the game is not up for the Government and that Gordon Brown can turn things around in the next 15 months.

Here's what some of the more hysterical correspondents to LabourHome are writing on the Internet:

ADWilliams124: “I'm over 50, seen and done many things, been all over the world. All I can say about the current shower is that it's like a parody of the last days of the Reich down in the bunker.”

“Peason”: “. I cannot believe that what the entire nation hoped for in 1997 has turned into this.

Jacks1: “The reasons for Labour's disastrous poll ratings in June 2008 are still there and are being exacerbated almost daily by the likes of Jackie (sic) Smith etc. The Government now has the additional problem of a disintegrating economy and the government's complicity in its demise is being revealed ever more as time goes by.”

All governments fall through their own fault. Edward Heath went to the country more than a year before it was necessary and gambled in a vain attempt to bring down the miners. He lost.

James Callaghan couldn't see that the winter of discontent was anything other than a little local difficulty. He was defeated in a vote of confidence in the Commons. He lost.

John Major didn't recover from negative equity, ejection from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, sleaze, and internal splits within Tory ranks. He was humiliated.

Can Gordon Brown win the next election? While he retains a grip on the Labour Party, anything is possible. But the opinion polls are uniform in suggesting a different outcome and the danger is that the paranoia over defeat which is sweeping cyber space will become self fulfilling.

With media reports this week suggesting that deputy leader Harriet Harman is plotting how to succeed Brown after an inevitable Labour defeat at the election, the would-be saviour of the world could follow James Callaghan as a Labour prime minister who was never given a mandate from the people.

HATTIE'S DENIAL

Overnight, Ms Harman dismissed the reports: “Well, I can say to you there is not a shred of truth in that.”

In an interview on Newsnight (BBC2), she said: “What I am doing, I'm determined to support Gordon as the Prime Minister of this country, as he takes the country through what are very difficult economic times. And people in my constituency and people in the Labour Party would expect me to do that, and that is exactly what I'm doing, and nothing else.”'

The Guardian reported earlier this week that Mr Brown was being suggested as a global regulator, supported by German chancellor Angela Merkel. Some have claimed the story could have been planted by Ms Harman to destabilise Mr Brown, but she said the idea of Mr Brown being “eased out”' to head such a body: “No absolutely not and he has said so.”

HANS-GERT'S WISHFUL THINKING

EUROPE'S top brass believes that EU financial aid to the regions will help generate interest in this June's European parliamentary elections.

It might in Bratislava, Las Palmas, Nicosia, Syracuse, and Lubeck, but I doubt if that strategy will work in Bury St Edmunds, Leicester, Norwich, Southampton, or Linlithgow, the denizens of whom will not be aware that elections are happening in June and care even less.

It's a sad reflection on the UK's participation in the great Europe adventure that the bulk of the electorate is either apathetic or left seething in rage at what happens in Brussels and Strasbourg. Cynicism is rife and much of it is down to our own politicians who fail to sell the EU to the British public.

That's not going to change overnight, so I rather think that the parliament's president Hans-Gert P�ttering is talking to an empty box when he regales us Brits with reasons why we should vote for Euro candidates who, once they are elected, make few headlines and whose work is cloaked in ink blank mystery.

“EU funds give rise to support and develop local projects. But citizens are often unaware of this,” regrets Herr P�ttering.

“I would like regions and municipalities to explain loudly and clearly how financial support from Brussels has made it possible to initiate and complete numerous projects. I am sure that these concrete examples will help generate interest in the European elections.

“Indeed, this will show clearly that the EU makes things happen on the ground.”

That's as may be, but it's unlikely to impress a stubborn British electorate. Those that do make it to the polling stations in June will be confronted by a phalanx of Eurohaters and Eurosceptics - including the Greens, BNP, Conservatives, UK Independence Party - and a Labour Party which for pragmatic reasons refuses to tell voters what is good about Brussels and Strasbourg. Only the Liberal Democrats have a truly European agenda but you'll be hard-pressed to find its candidates who'll admit on your doorstep to their federalist credentials.

THE Government has slammed the door on real democracy by refusing to hold referendums in Suffolk and Norfolk on councils' reorganisation. In a written reply to Dr Bob Spink (UKIP, Castle Point), local government minister John Healey said there were “no plans” for local referendums.

Meanwhile, the extension on consultation until July has prompted the leaders of Waveney, Forest Heath and St Edmundsbury councils to formally request that consideration be given to unitary Ipswich, East, and West Suffolk authorities.

Follow Graham Dines on TwitterFollow Graham Dines on Twitter