Could Labour lose because no one expects them to?

Could Labour lose because no one expects them to?

    Are Hain’s concerns more than just campaign rhetoric?

This week’s 7% Populus Poll lead might have calmed some Labour nerves but it might also have reinforced what some party strategists think could be the real problem – complacency.

In comments a couple of days ago the Commons leader, Peter Hain, reported that after a tour of 20 key marginals he had found a worrying level of apathy among supporters that was of a magnitude that could let the Tories back in.

“What I see”, he said, ” is a Labour vote that thinks we are going to win, as the media are predicting, and have written off the Tories. There’s a rather dangerous complacency and apathy that’s very worrying for us, that people, because they think it is a shoo-in for us, don’t feel the need to come out and vote.”

    “There is a risk now that the Tories could win many more seats than they thought or anybody thinks, simply because nobody expects them to. That’s the key problem for us and it’s a problem we intend to address.”

Is this just Hain’s rallying call to his troops or are his fears really justified? Is it possible that complacency could lead to a shock result on May 5th?

Labour’s poll leads are barely a third of what they were at this stage last time. In April 2001, the month before the June 7th election was called, the average margin was over 20% – now it’s 6%.

Demonising the Tories carries less force than it did four years ago and much less than in the 1997 election. As Polly Toynbee writes in the Guardian today “the awful truth is only just dawning on Labour that what things were like eight years ago doesn’t cut much mustard, except with we political archivists.”

Turnout ratings amongst Labour supporters in almost every poll are considerably lower than the Tory figures. Getting the vote out is key.

On the betting front, meanwhile, the Dublin-based Tradesports betting exchange has now created a series of UK election markets. With the party seat figures it is offering just three options as opposed to Betfair’s messy and unattractive eight. For a number of bets Tradesport’s prices are currently the best.

For General Election punters it is really great that there is now a major betting exchange alternative.

© Mike Smithson 2005

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