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David Cameron - Behind In The Polls And Losing Control?

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David Cameron goes into Easter after one of the most difficult periods of his premiership, with the Sunday press likely to make grim reading for the Prime Minister.

The lastest polls confirm that the Tories have lost large swathes of public support over the past fortnight, the party is trailing Labour by nine points in the lastest poll conducted by ComRes.

The same poll suggests the public overwhelmingly find the Tories "out of touch", and they also largely reject the so-called "pasty tax" along with the freezing of the personal allowance for the over-65s, widely dubbed the "granny tax".

The Independent on Sunday also reports that a majority of the public blame the government for causing the panic buying at petrol stations across the country this week, after Francis Maude's suggestion to drivers that they should think about filling up both their tank and a "jerry can".

Separately the Sunday Times has saved some of its revelations about former co-treasurer Peter Cruddas - he is reported as attending a number of private dinners at the PM's country residence of Chequers, in revelations not reported by Downing Street last Monday.

Cruddas is also alleged to have said that the Tories' opposition to Scottish independence was not as fervent behind the scenes as the party likes to portray.

It's a sign of an increasingly hostile press towards the Tories, as this collection of recent front pages shows;

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Grumblings from some of the Tory press began even before the Budget. Several commentators in the Daily Telegraph sharply criticised George Osborne for spending several days in Washington DC with the Obamas, rather than spending that time in the Treasury putting the finishing touches to his financial statement.

There will be likely recriminations if there are any more revelations like those seen in the Mail on Sunday, which suggest that David Cameron told Cabinet colleagues that a fuel strike by tanker drivers might be "no bad thing".

And in a sign that Tory backbenchers are really starting to wonder what their party's leadership is playing at, the young Thatcherite MP Steve Baker wrote on his blog this weekend:

Putting the public to all this inconvenience would obviously not be a wise strategy. And who would want widespread stockpiling of petrol at home? Who would think that enough could be stockpiled safely to be useful? Given the choice between conspiracy or cock up, error always seems more likely.

Whatever the reason why remarks were made by Government ministers which sent people to the pumps, I feel sure that society should not be so vulnerable to the words of a few people in Westminster. After the drama of the past few days, a better question than why ministers created this pantomime would be why we put up with them having the power to do so, whether by error or deliberate act. Society should not be so vulnerable to its rulers.

Former Tory strategist Amanda Platell said Downing Street didn't have the right staff to handle crises and advise senior ministers.

"What the Tories don't have any more is a senior person who knows how to run the lobby pack. You can only do that if you've actually been inside the business, and they've got no-one like that," she told Dermot Murnaghan on Sky News on Sunday morning.

There's one crumb of comfort for David Cameron, which is a lesson from 2000, the last time problems at petrol stations went all the way to Downing Street. During the autumn of 2000 the Tories briefly overtook Labour in the polls after hauliers brought the country to a standstilll by blockading refineries and running go-slow convoys on Britain's motorways.

It was the first real crisis of Tony Blair's premiership, but within seven months Blair won the 2001 general election with another landslide.

Speaking to the Andrew Marr programme on Sunday Morning, Foreign Secretary William Hague admitted it had been a "controversial week", but said: "I don't think we should be fazed or deterred by that. Of course there has been the threat of a fuel tanker strike.

"I think my colleagues who have handled these things would have been criticised either way. The country is in a better state of preparedness now than it was a week ago, for the eventuality of a tanker strike."

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