Only Westminster Hour would choose to begin last night's programme with bad poll news for the Tories. On a day dominated by a deeply embarrassing story for Gordon Brown and the Labour Party, Carolyn Quinn kicked off the discussion between Mr Forsyth and Mr Smithson with news of the the shrinkage of the Conservative lead over Labour to just 6%.
This, however, was not the worst of it. Carolyn seemed deternimed to play down the bullying story at every turn. Her question to Mike Smithson, "Will they (the Labour Party) be helped or hindered by today's revelations?", was an odd one for starters. Then to James Forsyth came "James, there have been denials of course from Number 10 about the allegations. I've spoken to senior cabinet ministers who 'well my eye-witness account is not that he's violent, but then there are the charges that he's aggressive to more junior staff?" Then came "Mike, the prime minister's response, he's strong-willed, he's determined, isn't that a good response to this, that yes he gets angry, but he gets angry for a purpose, he gets angry with himself?" When the politics panel came (late) to the topic, there came this question to Conservative Douglas Carswell: "And if we're talking about anger, about anger management, I mean let's face it, there must be times when David Cameron and Nick Clegg have had a bit of a temper tantrum, haven't they Douglas? Have you ever seen David Cameron lose his temper?"
Last Monday I pointed out that, given that last week's panel featured only a Labour and Lib Dem spokesman, this week it would probably be just a Conservative and a representative from a smaller party. Well no. We got the Tory (Mr Carswell) but we also got Labour again (Tom Harris) and another Lib Dem (Matthew Oakeshott). I'm keeping count, and that means that the Tories are now behind and owed one. Lord Oakeshott had plenty of goes at George Osborne and David Cameron, and praised Gordon Brown. The Lib-Lab pact grows stronger by the week.
The sheer viciousness of the Labour Party, from the Smeargate Affair to the sickening bullying of the lady at the Anti-Bullying helpline today (I've just witnessed John Prescott getting particularly smeary about her on Sky), via all the myriad personal attacks on David Cameron over the last couple of years, might lead a BBC prcsenter to steer clear of pointing the finger at the Tories over the issue of negative campaigning. Of course not. William Hague's accusation that Brown is pushing the UK yet deeper into debt as a scorched earth policy to make life tough for an incoming Tory government lead Carolyn to ask "Douglas, are you happy with that tack?" and then interrupt him to ask "But do you like negative campaigning like that?" Carolyn Quinn has been engaged in negative campaigning against the Conservatives for years.
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