The results of the latest poll in the Times are rather overshadowed by the headline “Voter back Tories over big cuts in spending”. Underneath the paper reports that, “Nationally, the Conservatives are on 38 per cent, up two points since June 9-10. Labour is on 26 per cent, up two points. If these trends are repeated locally, the Tories should win easily.”
Maybe they will but 38 per cent is a slim share of the vote (when the Conservatives last overthrew a Labour government under Margaret Thatcher she won 43.9%). A lot of nonsense is talked by Labour supporters in the press about how Cameron should be matching Tony Blair’s achievement of scoring 50 per cent poll ratings when he was leader of the opposition. As Mike Smithson of political betting points out, the polls in the mid-1990s were just wrong. All the pollsters, with the exception of ICM wildly overestimated Labour support, and all of them, again with the exception of ICM, have been forced to change their polling methods to produce more accurate results.
Still, the Conservatives need to win 150 seats. They have to wipe out the personal votes of sitting Labour MPs, motivate activists to knock on doors and find inspiring candidates in parts of the country which have not voted Tory since 1992.Poll ratings of 38 per cent are not a great place to start.
I’m not saying there is any hope for Labour – no party led by Gordon Brown can expect to win an election. But the size of the defeat will matter hugely. If Labour can retreat in good order, harry a new Conservative government with a small majority, or maybe no majority, it can bounce back. If it loses big, it will retreat into the comfort zone of its heartlands and be out of power for at least a decade.
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