Sunday polls: Conservatives nose ahead in a volatile race

Still not brilliant news in Sunday’s polls for the Tories, but I would rather be in their shoes than Labour’s today: no momentum and the campaign (substance vs, erm, ‘the damned Tories’) is slowly disintegrating. Things are still holding up pretty well for the Lib Dems. And after last week’s wobble (as Clegg came into the frame) Cameron’s ratings seem to be heading north again.

If I were a Labour hack, one thing (amongst many) to worry about is not the polls themselves, but their historic pro Labour bias. Now it may be that several things are happening:

  • People no longer feel compelled to misrepresent their views to interviewees.
  • A significant number are now using the Lib Dems rather than Labour as cover for a vote they will cast for the Conservatives.
  • People have begun misrepresenting their intention to vote Labour by declaring for the Lib Dems.
  • Something else we will only discover on the morning of May 7th.

But something is on the shift, and it is not good for the current government. Ben Brogan’s argument suggests that no one, not the Tories, Labour nor even Lib Dems (who may find their sheer lack of capacity impose as much limits and the prejudicial limitations of FPTP for third parties), actually does know what’s going on, or where in Britain the most critical battlegrounds are likely to be:

…the Tories are now quietly confident of taking seats such as Carlisle, both Boltons, Barrow in Furness, Weaver Vale, Lancaster and Fleetwood, but also Hyndburn and (does this explain why we haven’t seen him on the trail?) Jack Straw’s Blackburn.

The Tories want to highlight their ambitions for seizing Labour marginals to distract us from the sweaty business of unseating Lib Dems. If they lose seats to the Lib Dems, can they gain enough from Labour to make up for it?

Phil Woolas (from the Lib Dems) and Ruth Kelly (from the Tories) are also under considerable pressure in Greater Manchester. But on the big night keep an eye on the West Midlands and Lancashire for critical changes: both of which provided vital Conservative swings back in 1979.

A final thought. According to the invaluable Electoral Calculus, the spread markets (which tend to have a smaller final bias error than the polls) is currently calling it like this:

CON:  312

LAB: 223

LIB DEMs: 83

NAT: 11

Such a result would have considerable local indications. Not least because with a Lab/Lib coalition comes in 5 seats ahead of the Tories, the DUP (and the Scots and Welsh Nats) could wield some considerable influence (with Gerry continuing to use the tradesman’s entrance at Number 10).

But there is some way to go. And spreads, notoriously, only become accurate in the last day or two.

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  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    A hung parliament is still odds on favourite and Cameron would probably have to agree to electoral reform (or a referendum on same) in order to become Prime Minister and it will be interesting to see how the Tory right will react during the neogitations as they have given him a fairly free-hand up until now. He will be under pressure to go straight for a re-run.

    SF must be privately dreading the very unlikley scenario where the absence of their votes will faciltiate Tory rule though I suspect they could extract some Republican goal form Labour/LibDems for taking the oath of the Engleze evil empire as a one-off.

  • Greenflag

    Mick,

    Your enthusiasm for a resurgent UCUNF /Tory win is clouding the oul accuracy .

    Ruth Kelly is not standing for reelection .

  • Brian Walker

    As I ‘ve said before I just don’t believe that either main party would turn to the wee Celts including the NI parties for support in preference to the Lib Dems – even if the Lib Dems by themselves somehow failed to hold the balance of power. I think this is looking at events up the wrong end of a Stormont telescope.

    Now that Stormont devo seems set, the Downing St shuttle will be little used barring a new crisis. At Westminster we’d have a mix of a partrnership agreement between the lead party and the Lib Dems and case by case negotiations beyond that.What have the Celts got to offer?

    Given that they’re only holding out the begging bowl, the vast majority English of all parties would resist them, That’s the scenario from me – although like everyone else’s it may turn out to be wrong!

  • Free State Barsteward

    Brian,

    While I agree that Labour or Conservatives first port of call would be a Lib Dem pact, if numbers fall in particular way say either of the aforementioned short by a dozen or half dozen seats, you can never rule out the possibility of them doing a deal with the DUP,SNP,etc.

    Never underestimate a policticians hunger for power!!

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Brian W,

    there can little doubt the Tories would go for the DUP with their 8 or 9 seats (if they were enough) rather than the LibDems and electoral reform and possibly rule out a Tory government for a very, very long time if not for ever.

  • Alias

    Cameron sold his leadership to the Tories on the basis that the party needed to be reformed as a centre-right version of centre-left New Labour, with polices that made it the ‘nasty party’ all expediently disposed of.

    Now his party found out that, although he sold New Labour #2 to the Tory party, he didn’t do such a good job of selling it to the voters who didn’t want anything to do with a re-run of New Labour and its all-style-and-no-substance approach to state management.

    So, having carefully ditched all nasty talk (prudent fiscal policies, immigration control, small government, et al), he is now hastily trying to save his own skin by flinging them all back into the mix in the last couple of weeks of the campaign in order to reverse the damage that he has done to the Tory party’s electability by ‘reforming’ it.

    It’s a good lesson in why media and political advisers should only be paid on a no foal/no fee basis. The hacks know nothing except out to generate revenue for their own consultancy services.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ah, it’s her seat then.