More and more people are beginning to think that the Tories will winthe General Election. This is backed up by the betting markets as well as Goldman Sachs. We can take this as a given, as major investment banks will not put their money on a losing horse. The question is, will he gain the majority? Every major election barring 2010 has been decisive. The likelihood is one morning in mid-May the public will wake up once again to Prime Minister Cameron — with a small majority. For all the talk in the media and political pundits of an unusually tight election, history suggests that in ‘tight’ elections the electorate breaks decisively toward the incumbent if there is tangible economic improvement, as happened for John Major in 1992, or Barack Obama in 2012. The factors of voter disenchantment with Milliband, Labour’s terrible economic record (and probable decimation in their former Scottish stronghold) and Cameron’s own relative popularity will combine with a return to the voting norm to ensure his triumphant return.
Over the past two years, Labour’s lead has disappeared from the landslide territory of a double digit lead to running neck-and-neck with the Tories (with an occasional Tory lead). This is not the sign of an Opposition headed for a majority, but for outright defeat. The consensus of election statisticians is that the opposition typically loses around four points as the election looms closer — Labour have in fact typically lost seven. In fact this happened even to Cameron himself in 2010, and may have cost him a full majority against the hapless Gordon Brown. (Who knows how differently history may have turned out had the PM not taken part in those TV debates five years ago?) Labour’s lead at present is 1-2 points at most, with some polls showing Tories ahead or tied. Combine with the likelihood of the return of UKIP voters to the Tory fold, and the scenario looks decidedly uncomfortable for a Labour supporter.
However, things can actually get worse for Labour. While the SNP’s lead in Scotland has declined somewhat, this should not detract from the reality that Labour faces electoral decimation up North, and needs to shore up its seats urgently. The loss of up to 30 or more Scottish seats would all but end Milliband’s hopes of entering Number 10 Downing Street. He can hardly barter away Trident — our precious nuclear deterrent — in the hope of gaining power, in the event of a hung parliament. Which brings us to the unfortunate Mr Miliband; the leader of the Labour Party trails Mr Cameron by high double digits in the polls, almost surpassing Michael Foot in unpopularity. A person with such a record has never won an election, anywhere, ever. The incumbent simply needs to be more popular than his opponent, and the Prime Minister is of course the public’s preferred choice by that benchmark.
The Tories managed to breach the 36% mark following Cameron’s speech to his conference with UKIP at nearly 18 percent. This portends disaster for Labour — as at least some Tory voters return home from UKIP, it is no longer unlikely that the Conservatives can score significantly above 36% as May approaches. The Tories have crept into the lead nearer the election, a situation even better for them than in 1992, where they were trailing Neil Kinnock’s Labour but still won a majority on the night. The Tories may well end up with an outright majority based on the above polling trends. A presidential style election campaign would suit David Cameron very well and, from the evidence of his poor personal ratings, Miliband not at all. David Cameron by contrast, is his Party’s greatest asset, the most popular leader in the country by some distance.
There is a strong underlying reason why I haven’t mentioned UKIP; all polls show UKIP peaking. True, they have appropriated two MP’s from the Tories, but polls show they will lose one of these, and neither will Nigel Farage win South Thanet. A transient political phenomenon like UKIP will not have the same impact at a General Election that they could at a by-election, where they can hoover up protest votes from the white working class and frustrated middle class. It is important to note that in a general election dominated by macroeconomic fundamentals, where the economy is the main issue, smaller third parties are unlikely to hoover up protest votes. By-elections are a different paradigm to General Elections, where people will be contemplating their own futures under the next Government. On the core issue of the economy, they have appeared to have no strategy and the economy is the number one issue for voters. Continued exposure as a racist party will not help them much either.
The Tories know that, barring a monumental policy slip-up or unforeseen black swan event such as a major European economic crash, victory is in their sights. Like the tortoise that overtook the hare, Cameron’s Tories are slowly and steadily winning the race.