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Is this the New Year’s message that Labour didn’t want to hear?

December 31st, 2009


New Statesman

What do we make of Kellner’s assessments?

There’s a good assessment of the scale of the challenge facing Labour in the latest News Statesman from the president of YouGov, Peter Kellner, in which he examines the elements behind the recent revival in the party’s hopes.

Kellner’s themes will be familiar to PB regulars.

“The Conservatives’ poll lead has been shrinking.” “Well, up to a point….One much-reported MORI poll, in November, put the lead at just 6 points, but this now looks like an outlier. Apart from a brief rise in Labour’s support in the days following the pre-Budget report, most polls have shown the Tory lead remaining in double figures..”

“They need an 11-point lead to secure an overall majority.”“That figure assumes that the national swing is reflected in the marginal seats the Tories are targeting. There is some evidence – such as a recent YouGov/Telegraph poll in northern Labour marginals – that the Tories will achieve a higher swing in these seats. Why? Tactical anti-Tory voting, which has benefited Labour in key seats over the past three elections, may start to unwind. If the Tories secure a 9-point lead, they will probably achieve an overall majority…..”

“Governments normally gain ground as general elections approach.” “This used to be true, but not for the past 20 years. The picture is complicated by the way all the polls overstated Labour’s support in 1992, and most did in 1997 and 2001. If we correct the data to allow for the polls’ errors, we find that there was no signi­ficant government recovery ahead of the last four general elections….”

“If Britain’s economy is seen to start growing again, this could help Labour further.” “This must be one of the party’s great hopes… But we should be cautious. The economy did remarkably well between 1993 and 1997, yet this did little to help the reputation of John Major’s troubled government, which had been shot to pieces by the events of Black Wednesday, 16 September 1992. Labour, likewise, will be burdened at the coming election by the vast Budget deficit and memories of last winter’s sharp recession. I expect economic recovery to help Labour a little, but not much.”

It’s that last judgement that is the most controversial – certainly within Labour ranks. But as I always remind people John Major’s government was leading on “the economy” in the final ICM polls before the 1997 general election – and we all know what happened.

Unless something happens that totally changes the agenda it’s hard to see anything other than David Cameron entering Downing Street.

Mike Smithson

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