Saturday, 17 April 2010

Didn’t see that one coming!

Wow. What a poll.







15-16 April





Out the window


It's certainly a good time to be a Liberal Democrat. Even their most ardent activists can't have been expecting a boost of that size from the Leaders Debate. Clearly Nick Clegg won hands down, but I was quite sceptical this would translate into votes. The Lib Dems can't win remember? Well, that will be hard to make stick now. Quite clearly they could. Now, on UNS the make up of the Commons would be as follows.
















The media, and the Conservatives, will be reporting that this will give Labour the most seats despite coming third. Of course, this is ridiculous. Absolutely no-one knows how that vote share would transfer into Parliamentary seats. Anyone who claims they do should be tried for fraud. In some respects this is precisely why UNS will be used because there's nothing else; we're really in un-chartered waters. Also, if the Tories try to use this to scare the electorate with five more years of Brown I think they're going to crash and burn. Only one party has been consistently and loudly advocating Electoral Reform and they're the Liberal Democrats. Mr A N Voter will ask 'how can Brown lose but also win?!' Mr Clegg will say 'because of the ridiculous electoral system; vote for us and we'll change it.' How can the Conservatives deal with that without actually advocating ER themselves, and subsequently look like they've made a blatant opportunist flip?

Now, this could be a 'rogue' poll. But I get the impression that it will be almost irrelevant as the media have form for over reporting suspect polls as it is. Tomorrow morning the narrative will be the massive surge for the Lib Dems. And that's more important than whether or not it was the one in twenty outside the margin of error. It's more important because it will give voters belief. If I was asked this morning who I'd be voting for I'd have limited my choice to the Conservatives or Labour. I live in Plymouth Sutton & Devonport…they're the only two that can win here! How many who answered that YouGov poll are like me? How many thought the Lib Dems had no chance where they lived so wouldn't have entertained the possibility of voting for them? Until now, of course!

Which brings me on to probably the most important aspect of all this, the scrutiny. The media, the two main parties, and the voters by default will be pouring over the Liberal Democrats' manifesto over the weekend. In some respects polling thirty was the easy part. Staying there is a different challenge all together. But I think they have the ability to withstand it. The Conservatives have been taking pot shots at the Lib Dems' crime and immigration policies. In fact, they've been pretty much the same arguments that clearly failed when Cameron tried them in the debate. Those two particular policies are stolen from other countries. So if the Lib Dems are clever they can turn this around and ask the other parties what the fundamental difference is between a petty criminal in Denmark and one in Britain. Ditto with the regional work permit policy. In short, I think Labour and the Conservatives need a new strategy to deal with Clegg; and fast.

But lest we forget, there is still three weeks left. If the Lib Dems can jump 8 points in a day they can lose it just as quick. And as the debates are the only scheduled 'game changers' I'll have a brief look at them. Next week's is on International Affairs. Now partisans on twitter have been suggesting this is where the Lib Dems will be found out. The argument flows that they are 'out of touch' on Trident and the EU. But I think it's wishful thinking to believe that this is where the Lib Dems will lose it. The second debate is almost guaranteed to be the least watched because it's the second and it's on Sky. And besides, International Affairs isn't that high on the agenda at all. These aren't US Presidential debates, where this would arguably the only one that mattered. The Economy, Crime, Education, NHS. They are all much higher in our list of priorities. Only a major international event could change this, and you'd be a cold strategist to wish something like that. Regardless, it would have to bigger than a giant ash cloud!

Besides, I think it's misleading to describe them as 'out of touch' on international affairs. I actually think they're in touch with a significant minority of the electorate on trident, war and the EU. And if this is a three way race now a significant minority is all that is required. I'd also argue the voters that would agree with the Lib Dems on foreign policy would be far more 'active' that those that opposed them. Anti-war and anti-nuke protesters across the country could be licking envelopes for giddy Lib Dem PPCs all weekend. Well, they're far more likely to be than voters who are non-plussed about Trident, but think we could do with it, helping out the other two parties. So long as Clegg doesn't make a gaffe he should be ok. And considering Cameron wants Trident to deter the Chinese Clegg won't be the only one having to worry in that department!

So basically, it's the economy stupid. The Lib Dems have to hope their economic policies stand up to the inevitable attacks. This is where they are most vulnerable. Will the electorate trust a party that hasn't governed for 65 years with the nations coffers? I suspect it's a question that will be asked a lot in the coming days. Vince Cable to take centre stage? It's all coming together a bit for them isn't it?!

But more importantly, where does all this leave Quite frankly, I don't know. We've spent a lot of time and effort making predictions on a number of key assumptions which we though were fairly sound. Conservatives will poll high thirties, Labour 30ish, Lib Dems about the same as last time. Expenses MPs will be hard hit, the Lib Dems will do better when they are the incumbents, the Tories will do better in the marginals. I mean come on; the polls barely shifted in 2005! Are any of those assumptions still valid?! Expenses probably, but the rest have been blown out the water. I'll have a sleep and see where I am in the morning!

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