The Friday column by Henry G Manson
Yesterday Mike asked if the NHS changes are helping Nick Cleggâ€™s party? They don’t appear to be in terms of substantially changing the opinion polls for the yellows which is scraping around 8-12% depending on which poll you look at. However I am increasingly of the view the NHS will bear fruit in future elections and that a fair few Labour people to consider tactically voting for them to hurt Conservatives again in 2015.
Looking back over the last year it cannot be stressed enough how much goodwill was lost from Labour supporters when the Lib Dems formed a coalition with the Conservatives. Rightly or wrongly many who voted for the Lib Dems at the last election did so from an anti-Conservative position. So far weâ€™ve seen total support for George Osborne’s budget with Danny Alexander fronting the defence along with spectacular broken pledges on tuition fees. Together it means that tactically voting from reds to yellows is likely to be at its lowest ebb. By no means will it be easy to shift this.
However recent resistance from the Lib Dems over Lansley’s health plans has been something of a breakthrough moment and will not be forgotten – even if the motivation for this originated from the party’s grassroots rather than high command.
Will that alone be enough to grant Labour voters â€˜permissionâ€™ to vote tactically again? Perhaps not. But if we hear more Lib Dems voices joining Ed Davey in opposing new strike laws then this certainly will help with public sector workers â€“ many of whom are trade union members and had backed the yellows in the past and are repelled by the likes of Eric Pickles.
The biggest challenge to this tactical recovery is that at some point Labour supporters will be looking at the Liberal Democrats for greater flexibility if the governmentâ€™s economic programme if job creation and growth continues to underperform. It was Chris Huhne who said the government â€œshouldnâ€™t be lashed to the mastâ€ to its existing programme if circumstances change. Whether the Lib Dems will ever be strong enough to challenge Osborne on the Conservative economic policy remains to be seen. Iâ€™m not holding my breath.
We don’t have an abundance of polling evidence on tactical voting just yet, but my instinct is that it’s wrong to judge the yellow team on their current poll standings. They are putting in place building blocks to win back some tactical votes from Labour once more.
Put alongside their reknowned incumbancy boost then this could benefit the Lib Dems in 2015 and keep hold of a number of key seats.
It could well be that these contests are what determine the outcome of the next general election. It’s something worth watching out for.
Henry G Manson is a Labour activist (Twitter @henrygmanson)
- Mike Smithson is on holiday until July 4th