The Conservative Campaign Crisis (part 1): 1992 doorsteps revisited
The weekend papers are full of analysis about why the Conservative poll lead is slipping, with most of it even before the latest poll giving them just a 2% lead.
No need to link to them, you know where to find all the stuff, though if you want an explanation focused almost entirely on the personal and working relationship between four men, try the Financial Times. It’s wrong mind.
I’ve always maintained….that there isn’t anywhere near the same levels of enthusiasm in the country for Cameron’s new Tories as there was in 1997 for Blair’s New Labour. I’m sure we can all at least agree that that much is true.
True enough, but 1997 is not the best comparison because it’s conceived in (understandable Blair loyalist) terms of election victory. Whatever you may think of New Labour under Blair, Labour won that election.
This time around no-one’s going to win the election; someone’s going to lose it.
My ‘doorstep sense’ suggests a much better comparison for 2010 is the 1992 Conservative victory. That election was decided to a large extent by votes who voted Conservative with reluctance, and who even denied to pollsters that they were going to do so; it was the election when people were a little ashamed to vote Conservative but did so anyway because they saw no better offer. As UK Polling report put it:
In 1992 the British polls famously got it wrong. All the polls showed Labour ahead or the parties neck and neck. In fact the Conservatives had a solid lead. In the post-mortem that followed one of the problems that was identified was the “spiral of silence” or “shy Tories”. In short, given the unpopularity of the government some people were embarrassed to admit to a pollster that they would vote Conservative.
The sense I’m getting on the doorstep is it’s happening in reverse this time around. People are almost ashamed to say they’re considering voting for a Labour government – a party which did, after all, conduct an illegal war, amongst other things.
Plenty of people are still undecided, but I sense that as polling day nears, more are headed to the relative safety of Labour than to what may lie in store for them under the Tories.
And I do understand what voters tell me. I did win a quite surprising election victory once.
But why this reluctance to go all the way to the polling both with the Tories? Why does it look like voters will jilt them at the last?
More in part 2, when I’ll talk about 1979, oh and that election in 2008 too.
Of course, none of these elections had Ashcroft’s millions, and the idea that the election will simply be bought by the Tories can’t be ruled out.