Tuesday, November 24, 2009

That poll

One of the first things that caught my attention when I got back to the UK on Sunday was the poll that showed a significant drop in support for the Conservatives. Talk was of a hung parliament, the likely outcome of an election in which those voting proportions are cast. The no-win-for-anyone scenario has been what I have been predicting for some time now, despite the talk in the national media about an easy Tory victory with a comfortable majority.

For the Tories to win a majority, they need to gain 117 seats. That will give them an absolutely minimal majority. It should be remembered that in terms of seats the Conservatives are in a worse position that Labour after their meltdown in 1983. Labour needed another 3 elections before they were able to claw back the seats needed to win a general election. Admittedly the electorate is more open to shopping around with their votes nowadays. People tend to be less committed to voting the same way at each and every election. Indeed, they seem to be less committed to voting at all. So significant numbers of people can shift at a single election to cause a major change on the political landscape. 1997 and 1979 are classic examples of this. But there is no yearning for a Tory government now like there was for Blair in 1997. Whole swathes of the country remain areas where Cameron and his party are barely on the political radar screen. The North East is an example of this. The Tory ratings in opinion polls are well short of where Labour ratings were back in the 1990s and even then Labour fell well short of the expectations held at the time in terms of share of the vote (though admittedly matched or exceeded expectations on seats won in 1997). As we get closer to the general election, my expectation is of a firming up in the Labour vote.

This is not to say that Labour can hope to walk back into Downing St. Whilst their projected majority at the last election under the new boundaries was a still comfortable 55, a small swing would wipe that out instantly. Labour could also face a tactical squeeze that they used successfully against the Tories which could now work against them. That would add to a calamitous election campaign for Brown and Labour. Nevertheless, the Tories are going to need more than a Labour calamity and meltdown to win the general election outright. And at the moment I just can't see that happening. They may get to be the largest party, they may even get close to a majority, but there is a very serious possibility of a 2nd election in 2011. And what a joyous thought that is (not)!
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