Saturday, 28 February 2009

Tories and Opinion Polls

Surely even the politically neutral would agree that the country never reached the depths it is now plumbing under John Major. And yet during Major's period in office, Blair swept to commanding opinion poll leads double those that Cameron is achieving. I wonder why this is? Five possibilities occur to me:

1. It may generally be easier for a centre-left opposition party to achieve higher ratings because the promise of the benefits of higher spending is superficially more attractive to voters than the dour fiscal rigour that any centre-right party must offer.

2. It may be that the Conservative brand remains too toxic at least in certain areas of the country. Maybe still more years must elapse before the children of those that opposed Thatcher forgive the party. Perhaps the 'pot' of voters that the Tories are addressing is simply smaller than Labour because of this.

3. It may be that Tory policies are insufficiently clear and well understood. Blair continually reiterated a short clear programme. If people do not understand what the Tories will do, then the Tories will receive core vote plus anti-Labour vote but will only be able to share the non-aligned floating voters with other parties. Blair took the latter category as well.

4. Single issue politics appears to be more prominent: witness the rise of UKIP (Europe), the growth of the BNP (Immigration). Perhaps more people are willing to use their vote to protest using one of these minor parties than before. Again, this takes votes from the traditional parties.

5. Presidential politics are unfortunately here to stay. Blair was an extraordinarily dominant figure for Labour and had an extraordinary ability to communicate across party lines. Cameron is a superb politician and a very good communicator. People like him. But he somehow does not quite have that Blair communication magic. This is not a criticism: of politicians of the last 30 years surely only Mandela and Obama have been alongside Blair in that extraordinary category. That difference between the very good and the extraordinary is surely where a few percentage points goes.

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