What will it do to the campaign if the EU is not an issue?
We are just four weeks and two days from the final national election test ahead of the general election – and hardly anybody seems to have noticed. The one betting market – on whether or not Labour’s share will drop below 20% – says it all. That’s all that the media, pundits and punters seem to be interested in.
For the political narrative is almost totally dominated by Gordon and the June 4th elections are simply looked at as another hurdle for the occupant of Number 10 to have to jump over. A very low Labour share, and Trevor Kavanagh in the Sun has been talking of 17%, and that might impact on the PM’s retirement plans.
In broad public terms the EU itself hardly registers when pollsters ask people to list their concerns. Just look at the chart above from MORI with the latest numbers and look how concern EU-linked issues has touched a new low.
I always like this poll. For almost every month for getting on for three decades MORI has asked its “most important issues facing the country” questions in exactly the same format. Two points are put, both completely unprompted. Firstly they are asked which is the “most important issue” then they are asked to name, without a limit on numbers “other important issues”.
In 2004 Tony Blair went to great lengths to try to avoid Labour humiliation in the last Euro elections. The local and London elections were switched to the same day, he promised a referendum on the EU constitution to take away Michael Howard’s key campaign point, Ken Livingston was allowed back into the party so at least Labour would have some good news from the day, and large parts of England voted in an all-postal ballot for the first time boosting turnout in those places by 5% and helping the Labour shares.
By contrast Brown appears to have done nothing. There’s no big issue to put the Tories on the spot, the public are not interested, and it’s likely that the national turnout level could fall maybe to below 30%.
The danger is that the vote will turn into a referendum on Gordon himself and provide a platform for the BNP.
The only consolation is that Labour’s starting point – the 22.6% of 2004 – is very low so getting within three or four points could be seen as a sort of victory.
In the betting I’ve got a fair whack on the Labour share being below 20%. The price has now tightened from evens to 8/11 and I’m not so sure whether that offers good value. Hopefully we will see other markets emerge – but as long as the public don’t seem interested I don’t expect the bookies to do much.