There is a new Populus poll reported tonight in the Times tomorrow showing a 14% Conservative lead up from 10% last month:
Conservative 42% (down 1%)
Labour 28% (down 5%)
Lib Dem 18% (up 3%)
This is a boost for the Conservatives and the Lib Dems. A 14% lead is excellent by any standards and the Lib Dems will be pleased to see their rise, shown in the last ICM poll, continued in this Populus poll. It is however desperate for Labour and confirms that they are back down to the levels before Gordon Brown’s bounce at the end of last year.
It is reported today that allegations in the Sunday papers that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith abused the Parliamentary allowances systems to claim over £116,000 for a second home have been referred to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. Whilst it is by no means certain that the Commissioner will formally investigate, or if he does, that he will find against her, the mere fact of a complaint being lodged serves to keep the story running.
The Cabinet post of Home Secretary is one of the top three Cabinet positions, albeit diminished somewhat since Labour carved out a separate Justice Ministry. The incumbent is responsible for policing in England and Wales, as well as national security and citizenship matters for the United Kingdom as a whole. However, since the forced resignation of David Blunkett in December 2004 the incumbents have tended to be somewhat short-term. Charles Clarke lasted less than 18 months (Dec 04 to May 05), John Reid just over 12 months (May 06 to June 07), and Jacqui Smith has been in post for just over 19 months (June 07 to date). Contrast that with the ten years (May 97 to June 07) that Gordon Brown was Chancellor of the Exchequer. Such short-term occupancy of such an important post cannot be conducive to long-term planning or consistency of direction.
Jacqui Smith has not been a “lucky” Home Secretary nor has she given the impression of having a firm grip on her department. However, much of the blame should be laid at the feet of her colleagues and predecessors. She inherited Sir Ian Blair as Metropolitan Commissioner and fell out publicly with the London Mayor over Blair’s resignation; she looked shifty and out of control when police raided the office and home of Conservative MP Damien Green; she also has borne much of the brunt of Gordon Brown’s ill-judged “British jobs for British workers” remark. Some are even speculating that David Blunkett could soon be brought back to replace her. At least he managed three and a half years in the post.
As I said at the start, it is by no means certain that Smith will have to resign over these allegations but they are damaging to her and the Government because they help to maintain the impression that Labour politicians particularly are on the take. If she does resign or is reshuffled Gordon Brown could do worse than bring back David Blunkett.
“It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours.”
That would explain why at Prime Minister’s Questions last week Gordon Brown used the ‘D’ word – he is about to lose his job!