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Enter the era of dog whistle politics

January 31st, 2005

    Sending a message that’s only heard by the target audience

The real reflection of the state the Tories are in is that if they make the magic number of 200 seats it will be seen as some kind of victory. Yet even at that level Tony Blair would be returned with an overall majority of more than 70 – sufficient to sustain the party for a full third time.

It’s against this background that the poll moves after last week’s immigration speeches have to be judged. Both the pollsters that carry out very regular surveys so you can spot trends – YouGov and ICM – recorded 2% improvements for the Tories against Labour over the days before and after the announcement.

    Does this mean that we’ll see more of what is known in in Australia as “dog-whistle politics” – putting out a message which, like a dog whistle that is inaudible to humans, is only heard by the people at which it is aimed.

As Andrew Grice of the Indpendent observed at the weekeend – the dog whistle looks as though it has been imported into British politics.

He wrote: Dog-whistle politics has been used successfully by John Howard, Australia’s conservative Prime Minister. He has played the immigration card without making overtly racist comments. It is no coincidence that the man who ran his four successful election campaigns, Lynton Crosby, is now Michael Howard’s election campaign director. The Tory leader’s carefully chosen words were designed to strike the right chord with his target audience. Labour strategists fear the subconscious message will play well in marginal seats in areas such as the West Midlands and among eurosceptics tempted to vote for the UK Independence Party.

Perhaps this is the first evidence of the impact that Lynton Crosby – described down-under as “the master of the black arts of politics” – could have on the coming election. It looks as though we wil be in for an interesting 13 weeks between now and May 5th.

As we predicted yesterday’s spate of polls have stalled the recent Tory progress on the spread-betting markets where punters bet on how many of the 646 Commons seats at stake each party will win.

Latest IG Index spread prices: LAB 355-362 (nc): CON 189-196 (nc): LDs 70-74 (nc)

Latest Spreadfair prices: LAB 357-359 (nc): CON 189-194 (-1): LDs 71-73.4 (nc)

Mike Smithson






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