Thursday 4 December 2008

Not so much a prediction.

It seems to be generally acknowledged that David Cameron will be our next Prime Minister. Everyone talks about it in terms of when, not if. It's just taken for granted that the Tories will win the next election; a foregone conclusion.

Well, I've seen all this before, in 1992. No-one in their right minds seriously thought that Major might win that election.

I'm not saying the Tories can't do it. They might well. But I think it's easy to overestimate their popularity when that's being reported through the prism of the media. David Cameron is very media-friendly. There's some evidence that he's less popular with the Tory base than with BBC staff. And he's trying to appeal to the electorate by making the Tories as much like Labour as possible. That's a tricky game, that, and likely to create misleading poll data. In fact, it was after the '92 election that quite a bit of research was done into why polls can be so wrong. What one research team discovered was that the wrong question was being asked. "Who would you vote for if the election were today?" gets people to reveal which party's policies they like the look of, but it misses the tribal factor that exerts more influence on people than they realise when they're in the booth alone with their ballot paper. "Which party do you most associate yourself with?" is the more revealing question.

Thing is, people will vote for the party they associate themselves with if they vote. If Cameron persuades a lot of traditional Tories to stay at home, and if a bunch of Labour supporters who've been telling the pollsters that they'll vote Tory go and discover at the last minute that they just can't bring themselves to do it, then the Tories will lose. And are either of those things unlikely? I certainly don't think so.

Like I said, they might do it. But I just wanted to go on record, so that, if they lose, I can say I nearly told you so.

And I do hope they lose. I can't stand Labour, so don't want to see the so-called Opposition rewarded for turning into Labour, which would leave us with a two-party one-party state for decades. Give the people a choice.

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