by Daphne Liddle
LATEST opinion polls report a surge in popularity for Labour, who now have a 10-point lead over the Conservatives according to a YouGov/Sun poll published on Wednesday, which gives Conservative support at 33 per cent, Labour at 43 per cent and the Liberal Democrats at nine per cent.
The reasons for the sudden change are attributed to George Osborne’s budget last week, in particular the increase in tax liabilities for pensioners.
But other factors include the unpopularity of the Health and Social Care Act and the scandal of dinners with Cameron for very rich people in return for huge donations to the Tory party.
Ed Miliband is also improving his image by attacking the Government at last and starting to act like a real opposition — though there is still a long way to go.
We can tell that the Lib-Dems are worried because they have just claimed to have prevented Cameron nodding through a policy of allowing bosses to dismiss workers without cause that was suggested by one of Cameron’s millionaire business friends — the venture capitalist Adrian Beechcroft.
The revelation was published in Wednesday’s Independent, which claims that Beechcroft has given £593,000 to the Conservatives since Cameron became Tory leader in 2005.
Last autumn he recommended that be allowed to sack unproductive workers at will. The businessman, whose interests include payday loans company Wonga.com, argued that “coasting” workers inhibit economic growth and deter employers from recruiting.
The Lib-Dems claim that many of his sweeping proposals would have gone ahead if the Tories governed alone, because Nick Clegg’s party could not have mounted its strong rearguard action inside the Coalition.
But they have chosen to make this revelation just after the revelations of the cash-for-dinner with Cameron scandal — suggesting they are trying to distance themselves from their Coalition partners and to try to recover some of their own rating in the polls, which is still abysmal.
Senior Tories insist there was no reason to bar Beechcroft from advising the Government because he had given money to the Tories. He was not among the Tory donors entertained by Cameron at Downing Street or Chequers and there is no suggestion that his companies would have benefited directly from the reforms he proposed.
This policy was the subject of a Government-ordered study that was never published. It was said to include cuts in maternity benefits and the introduction of a “no fault dismissal” policy for employers to get rid of “coasting” workers in favour of more willing slaves.
Cameron’s lieutenants are now trying to distract public attention from the various scandals around his government by encouraging motorists to panic-buy petrol — in case the tanker drivers’ strike goes ahead.
So far no date has been set for the strike but it is an easy one for the Government to avert simply by getting the heads of the oil distribution industry around a table with the union, Unite, to discuss a national policy on safe working practices and conditions.
This would benefit the drivers and the general public by reducing the chances of a major accident.
Now motorists are heeding Francis Maude’s advice and besieging petrol stations and supplies are disappearing fast.
To add to Cameron’s woes, just one week after Osborne’s astonishingly optimistic Budget, the economic forecast for Britain has had to be revised down again. Growth for the last three months of 2011 has been revised down to a contraction of 0.3 per cent.
The first two estimates of gross domestic product (GDP) from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed a contraction of 0.2 per cent.
The ONS blamed the revision on the transport and communications and business services and finance sectors.
The annual figure for 2011 growth has also been revised down to 0.7 per cent from 0.8 per cent.
It takes more than Cameron and Osborne’s “positive thinking” to make economic recovery a reality.
Meanwhile in London the chances of Ken Livingstone winning back the mayorship are improving as the Tory scandals also damage the poll ratings of Boris Johnson.
But it remains critical that those who do not want Boris returned do their utmost to ensure a good turn out for the election on 3rd May, especially in the inner boroughs which have suffered the most in cuts to youth and other essential services.