The latest polls show, overall, very little movement after a week of relentless attacks from the media and opposition over Iraq.
In fact I am beginning to wonder if the public are not actually getting sick of it all by now. Even if the scoops had turned out to be real smoking guns, would there have been a big reaction? Remember, Blair has been dubbed a ‘liar’ by his enemies for over two years and the war has long been labelled ‘illegal’. Even in the best case scenerio for them, all the papers could have done is say “Look, we were right”. They overplayed their hand long ago.
Do the public sense this? It has long been clear that people have made their minds up over Iraq. The week’s campaigning could only serve to either demotivate Labour voters to not turn out or push some wobbling ones over to the Lib Dems. There is a slight indication in the polls that the Lib Dems may have benefitted from making Iraq the main issue but it is not the big switch they were looking for.
Ok, this is just a hunch, we will find out after Thursday whether this past week has really hurt Labour and I’m not counting any chickens and aware of the risk of wishful thinking here. But people out on the doorsteps have told me that Iraq is not the first question on people’s lips and reported that many are indeed ‘war weary’.
The BBC website had a ‘Your Say’ on the issue over the weekend and the forum, usually pretty dominated by anti-war, anti-Blair posters had a very different tone when I took a look.
Sure there are plenty of anti-war people insisting they weren’t going to vote Labour but their stridency makes it clear they never were going to back Blair anyway. There are none that I found as I skimmed through which indicate anyone has changed their mind. There are a surprisingly large number of pro-war comments, more than I have ever seen in such a feature, and there are also a good number along this line:
I am sick and tired of this issue. I was against the war but we have a duty to clear up the mess we have created. The decision to go to war is history – we need to move on.
and this one:
What about living today instead of constantly trying to live in the past? How many more politicians are to be put in the dock to satisfy the self appointed media minders of our morality?
While after the election the parties may review whether it was wise to focus so heavily on Iraq don’t expect the media to do any self-criticism. They are already hiding the very important news that the anti-Blair campaign over Iraq in the past week appears to have had little impact.
In a piece which looks at negative campaigning and the media’s priorities in the Guardian today the issue is skipped over in this rather odd section: The generally negative tone of the coverage is also highlighted by the fact that neither the Lib Dems nor the Conservatives managed to make any capital from the prime minister’s decision to publish the attorney general’s equivocal advice.
The piece also notes that the tabloids, whose coverage one would expect to have a bigger impact at election time than broadsheets who largely preach to the converted, have not been much interested in the Attorney General story or the whole Iraq campaign. The tabs have many faults but they are usually pretty astute at knowing what their readers get excited about.
So here is a tentative theory – the war bores might, just might, have neutralised the Iraq issue in this election with their decision to focus on ‘Liar, Liar’ rather than more intelligent criticisms of Blair that could have been made.
After all, when the front pages of the Daily Mail and Socialist Worker repeat the same mantra, who could blame people from deciding enough is enough?