Friday, April 24, 2009

Why Labour can still win – but not how

Many commentators have chosen this moment to sound the death knell for the Labour Party’s electoral prospects. A dismal budget, a smears scandal inside Number Ten, expenses scandals, a truly dire economic situation have all combined to create a truly hellish few weeks for the government.

Luckily for the Tories, and ICM poll which showed them only 10 points ahead has probably been proved to have been a rogue. YouGov’s poll for the Telegraph this morning shows a very healthy 18-point lead – confirming similar data from BPIX (methodology aside) and Marketing Sciences (sister to ICM). Anthony Wells’ UK Polling Report General Election Projection (AWUKPRGEP if you prefer) now stands at a Conservative majority of 102.

Despite these poll leads and the seemingly unstoppable torrent of awful headlines, many Conservative supporters like me will only believe the victory is in the bag on election night itself – likely to be June 4th, 2010. We could be 50 points ahead at the moment and I would still not deny that Labour have the ability to surge once again. The 1992 election proves that an incumbent government can win with 3 million unemployed. The major difference on this occasion, I feel, is that it appears that the public have more faith in David Cameron and George Osborne to sort the economy out than they did in Neil Kinnock and John Smith. I am hopeful, however, that the next election has more in common with 1979 than 1992.

There are a few reasons why it’s still possible Labour will win:

  • The FPTP system is biased towards parties whose vote is more evenly spread across constituencies. The Tories rack up huge majorities in safe seats where they are effectively ‘wasted’
  • Hence, in connection with the last point, the Tories still need to be around 9 or 10 points ahead to enjoy an overall majority, and need to achieve a very large swing across the country
  • The Tories need to deal effectively with the Lib Dems, in particular weaker LD incumbents, otherwise safer Labour seats need to fall in order to provide an overall majority – an expanding Lib Dem parliamentary Party has greatly assisted Labour
  • The expenses row will reach a peak in the summer, when all MPs’ claims are published. We do not yet know if this will take an equal toll on the Tories and Labour. Could the Lib Dems benefit?
  • Will the economy be as dire as we think it is? Well, to be honest, probably, yes. But who knows? A few encouraging figures here and there and maybe, just maybe, Brown and Darling can emerge as architects of a recovery.
  • I don’t believe voters in suburban seats are yet convinced that the Conservatives are a better alternative to Labour. There are countless seats in the north of England which the Tories simply must win to form an overall majority.

However, as I allude to in the title, the above are all reasons why Labour can win the next election. I am at a total loss as to how they can win.

1 comment:

C Hogan-Taylor said...

I agree that this is not the death of New Labour. The first problem with such a claim is that few people have little grasp of what New Labour actually is, and understandably so.

I can't help thinking through the scenario that we win the next election only to be faced with a more acute crisis - whether because of this budget, general economic factors or both - that itself prevents a proper Tory electoral recovery. If we really wanted to kill New Labour we'd sadomasochistically lose the next election, let them take all the shit and then come charging into the Commons with a majority of 300.

I agree that poll leads of the size we're getting now could be in trouble should Labour's economics turn out to be right, but if that happens we'll have the much greater problem of flying pigs to deal with.