By Ray Fleming
THERE'S something very odd about the British political scene just at the moment. How can it be, according to yesterday's Populus opinion poll for The Times , that the Conservatives lost three percentage points in the past month while Labour gained one point? An obvious observation is that such small movements are within the normal margin of error for such polls and that therefore they cannot be totally relied upon.

Nontheless, this poll and others that have provided similar results recently do seem to show that the Conservatives are simply not making the progress that one would expect against a party that appears to be at a low ebb for a number of reasons. According to Populus the Conservatives' lead over Labour is now a mere three per cent, down by four points from one month ago and very far from the advantage they need to win an overall majority in the House of Commons.

Of possibly even greater interest were Populus' findings on public opinion about Gordon Brown. Dour, arrogant, a control freak? Not according to a majority of all voters, although Conservatives were more inclined to think so than Labour supporters. Strong? Yes, according to an overall 69 per cent, including 62 per cent of Tories. Only when it comes to charisma does Mr Brown do badly on both sides. But who cares? After a decade of charismatic leadership perhaps Britain has had enough. On this evidence Mr Brown can afford to wait.

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