Thursday, March 19, 2009

How does the Tory poll lead really compare with the 1990s

There seems to be a debate taking place on Lib Dem Voice ( and various other blogs about the true state of the Tory lead in the polls. The issue was kicked off by David Laws MP on BBC on Wednesday who pointed out that whilst the Tory poll lead is in the region of 12%, this is far less than that enjoyed by Labour in the dying days of the Major government in the 1990s.

Whilst some argue that the current polling methods attempt to take into account a respondent's likelihood of voting, it cannot explain why the Conservatives are clocking up shares in the low 40s whilst in the 1990s, Labour's share was usually in excess of 50%. Others are arguing that the Conservatives are performing well.

Maybe the explanation is simply that Cameron's Conservatives do not have the reach that Labour had in the 1990s (which has since disappeared). There are after all whole swathes of teh country, particularly northern metropolitan areas, where the Conservatives' local performance is at best patchy and at worst they are the 4th party behind the BNP.

I feel no burning urge for a Cameron government amongst the electorate whereas in the 1990s, there was a feeling of goodwill and support for a change from the Tories to the Blairite New Labour model (how times have changed!)

The Conservatives have an electoral mountain to climb. To secure a working majority they need a swing at least as large as that achieved by Labour in 1997. That gave Blair a landslide majority. The Conservatives will simply scrape in with barely a majority on the same swing. And that assumes the uniform swing will engulf Lib Dem held constituencies as well. The Tories know not to count on that. They also know they need to win 130 seats to get a minimal majority.

The task before them is not impossible but it is hugely challenging and the polls show they are still some way off achieving that.

Meanwhile, Labour, with their backs to the wall, have not yet given up the will to govern as the Tories had in the 1990s. They will come out fighting and they will attempt to pull rabbits out of the hat. The next election is by no means an certainty as it was in 1997. A great deal can still happen.

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