OPINION: Is this the best the Mirror can come up with?

Last week the leader of Her Majesty's Opposition cycled the wrong way down a one-way street - a nation recovers from shock. The Daily Mirror had followed David Cameron, filming him on his cycle to work, and this made the front page. It did Cameron's image no harm.

The Mirror no doubt thought it was boldly helping the Labour cause, going to the trouble of regularly following Cameron to finally nab him. But, although its loyalty to Gordon Brown is touching, is this the best it can come up with?

Remember, it was the Mirror's sister newspaper, the Sunday Mirror, that rummaged through Cameron's bins, found his children's used nappies and triumphantly claimed they were not biodegradable, mocking his environmental credentials. Yes, someone actually did this.

The Conservative press office did the correct thing and put out a brief statement from Cameron saying he had 'obviously made a mistake' and was 'sorry'. A Tory press officer said: 'It is just exhausting that we have to deal with this, but the public are not stupid - this story is not a vote decider.'

When 'Bikegate' broke, who did Labour put up to discuss the scandal? What great beast did it haul out to get hot and bothered? A cabinet member or a minister? No, Martin Linton. Never heard of him? Not many have. Martin Linton is MP for Battersea. He appeared grave-faced on national television.

Linton was one of the key organisers of the Peter Hain deputy leader campaign - Hain, who had to resign in shame because of odd financial goings-on. Linton won his seat in 2005 by just 160 votes.

A man whose constituency has serious social problems, yet the pull of talking about Cameron's cycling proficiency, and boasting of his own, on prime time was too great for him to turn down. I've lived near Linton for years and have never seen him on a bike once.

Much has been made in the press of Stephen Carter, the Prime Minister's new head of political strategy. A Labour aide said: 'Carter will probably be quite embarrassed by this. It's schoolboy stuff ... He knows this sort of thing is weak and systemic of the plight of the party.'

Even a Labour minister expressed nonchalance over this weakening of Cameron's image: 'It's a bit of a laugh, but it simply makes him look like a normal bloke - he's undamaged.'

Labour's approval rating is at its lowest since it came to power. What's a government to do? Next week a Mirror camera secretly follows Cameron into a Westminster loo to see if he washes his hands.

Tara Hamilton-Miller was part of the press team at Conservative Campaign HQ from 2001 to 2006. She is now a political adviser.

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