What does it mean that Young Dave has been slamming all the core vote buttons so hard lately? Yes, we all know he's gearing up for a possible snap election but it's the shift of emphasis towards the heartland heartbeat that intrigues. The Mail has been singing his praises over his announcements on crime - "At Last! Mr Cameron Is Talking Like A Tory!" - and tonight on Newsnight he'll be dog whistling away on immigration. All this activity has meant he's been hogging the limelight while New Gordon and co. have looked a bit defensive over the Rhys Jones tragedy. And today there's been trouble in another part of the criminal justice landscape.
But could it be that Cameron, rather than expecting to win, is actually preparing to minimise the margin of defeat should Gordon's present poll lead hold and he decide to call an October election? Brown's sure-footed re-positioning after becoming PM was not in the Tory leader's plans. His re-re-modelling of his party is incomplete and there will now not be time to finish the job in time for an autumn polling day. Hence his reversion to tried-and-tested Tory rhetoric? Better to ride to a close second on the back of the faithful than to unravel on the centre ground? I wonder...
Beverley Hughes has been at it again. A report on the efficacy of the government's early learning strategy - pre-school nurseries, Sure Start centres - by Durham University academics published yesterday found that no obvious improvement in the cognitive development of pre-school children has occurred in the six years since the measures were introduced. Just as with all and any criticism of ContactPoint, Hughes simply dismissed the Durham survey out of hand. Maybe, as she claimed - and as the Durham researchers acknowledge - there will be benefits eventually. But in a nation where far too many children enter primary school unable even to converse adequately, you might hope that the minister for children - of all people - would be a little less quick to dismiss considered evidence that her policy might not be working. Or, sadly, you might not.
The rivalry between Merseyside's two footie giants has always been friendlier than those in other cities. Liverpool's unique and powerful sense of identity has seen to that. Not every aspect of that identity has always been attractive, a discovery I made some time ago. At its best, though, it is stirring. We saw a good example at Anfield last night in response to the murder of Evertonian Rhys Jones. And hasn't Boris Johnson been quiet on that subject? I wonder why.
Menzies Campbell was playing to his strengths when writing to Gordon urging him to fix a date to withdraw from Iraq and to send more troops to Afghanistan instead. Squeezed in the polls, he's strongest on foreign policy and, responding to Gord's reply, got good airtime today reflecting the mood of a public that mostly doesn't know that the Lib Dems are for. In many ways it was a win-win ploy because everyone knows we're well on our way out of Basra anyway. Yet if you watch Campbell on the Beeb, even he shied away from the word "defeat" to describe what's happened to us in Iraq. True, "failure" might be a better word for it. But I'd still bet that even the party most critical of the war is nervous of admitting that we've lost. And we have, Gordon. We have.
Mr Hill writes: "I heard Steely Dan's laconic Barrytown over a supermarket's sound system while in France. Dig that irony. And now I recall listening to this a lot during the summer of 1977, the year I was confirmed in my unattractive love for dark sarcasm. The song's about the downfall of a San Francisco acid baron. But what I liked about it was its slick, knowing attitude. That, and a certain plaintiveness."
Like Mike Smithson I'm waiting for polls taken since the Rhys Jones murder to see if the Tories are benefiting from an escalation in gun crime fear. I've a nasty feeling they will, even if it's true that David Davis has twisted the statistics more than Jacqui Smith has in order to claim that anarchy has gripped the UK. Whatever, the stats about voting intentions seem almost as inconclusive as those about any sort of crime. On Sunday The People declared that a "snap election" is on the cards with Gordon poised to win a 108-seat majority. Today, an ICM poll for the Guardian produced the sub-heading claim that "PM could lose majority if he goes for early vote." There again, the Westminster Hour reported (listen again from 18.45) yesterday that academics have worked out that despite constituency boundary changes Cameron would need a ten-point lead to secure a majority of just one seat. According to ICM he presently trails by five. You do the maths, as they say. I'll bet Gordon's doing his.