Are the Tories playing the expectations game?

by Stephen Tall on October 14, 2008

There’s been a fair amount of publicity today generated by ConservativeHome’s ‘scoop’, a briefing they’ve been fed received on the party’s analysis of the political impact of the current economic crisis, and in particular:

Team Cameron readily concede that Brown has enjoyed a good few days. They expect the Conservatives’ poll lead to drop into single figures in the next month or so. They expect to lose the Conservative lead on economic competence but expect it to be restored by the new year.

Now, forgive me for lapsing into cynicism, but this strikes me as a rather easy way for the Tory party to manage expectations, to avoid the media changing its recent anti-Brown narrative into a bout of Cameron-bashing. ‘So what?’ Tory central office will say if/when the polls show the Tory lead over Labour slashed; we predicted this; it’s all part of the plan.

To be fair, there is nothing intrinsically wrong in the Tories’ analysis of the situation. They correctly point out, according to ConHome, “that frenetic activity by Vince Cable is doing nothing to reverse the LibDems’ slide in the polls.” Which is a point Lib Dem Voice has also made.

But I don’t entirely buy into the Tories’ excuse for why Messrs Cameron and Osborne have gone ‘missing in action’ over the past week – “They have decided it’s largely impossible to compete for serious airtime with Government at this time.” Well, perhaps. Or it might be that they (unlike the Lib Dems) did not foresee the crisis, have nothing at all original to say, and are waiting to see how the wind blows before deciding how they next attack the Labour Government.

However the Tory party and ConHome likes to spin it, the last week has shown the new Tory party and its leadership to be utterly out of its depth in a crisis.