Could complacency costs votes and seats
It’s generally agreed that a key reason why the turnout in 2001 dropped to below 60% was that the outcome seemed like a foregone conclusion. Nobody could really believe that William Hague’s Tory party posed a serious threat and this caused people to stay at home.
The polls, clearly, had a part to play in this but even taking in the 6.6% average overstatement of Labour’s margin the Tories were always miles behind and though their 32.7% was ahead of the polls it was never going to make a dent in the popularity of New Labour.
The parties are closer now and Labour’s ICM figures are upto 11% less than they were in the run-up to the 2001 General Election – an 8% current margin compared with 19% in March 2001.
Is there a danger, and this applies to more than just Labour, that the result will be seen as a foregone conclusion and electors will stay away on a big scale again? And if that happens could it influence the eventual outcome?
The Lib Dems are helping with the perception because they are keen to dismiss completely any suggestion that the result will do anything less than completely undermine the Tories. Charles Kennedy does not want to spend the entire campaign being asked what he would do in a hung parliament.
Labour seem content to accept uncritically the polls even though they’ve got most to lose from turnout being low.
The Tories are, inevitably, disheartenened and are putting their hopes on a good campaign.
The Labour plan to portray voting Lib Dem as a way of letting the Tories back will only be taken seriously if Tony Blair’s victory is not seen as a certainty. That is why we are surprised that few Labour figures have woken up to the danger that a low-turnout could have when the parties are much closer than they were last time.