Has Blair given the Tories the weapon to get more votes out in the marginals?
Probably the most revealing statistics to come out of the past week were in the list of postal voting applications in different seats and local authority areas published in yesterdayâ€™s Times.
For they show the product of the â€œhiddenâ€ campaign that has been taking place over the past six months â€“ the huge direct marketing effort in the marginal seats. Select voters have been bombarded by mail and phone calls by centralised Labour and Conservative operations and the â€œsellâ€ has been confirmed by a postal vote application being returned to the partiesâ€™ national processing centres.
All this has been made possible by the easing of the postal vote regulations before the last election which gives all electors the right to vote by this method.
In Bedford for instance, where I fought for the Lib Dems in 1992, the total of postal applications so far is up from 3,197 to 11,748. Labour is defending a 6,000+ majority. Although the local authority area covers more than the Bedford seat itâ€™s likely that the increase is well in excess of the majority.
- So could the efforts to increase turnout go against Labour?
As the Times notes this morning â€¦ In Cheadle, Manchester, where the Liberal Democrats have a majority of 33, the number of applications stands at 8,226, nearly five times the 1,695 cast in 2001. In Dorset South, where Labour has a wafer-thin 153 lead, applications have increased to 192 per cent of 2001 levels. Other marginals showing large increases in applications include Labour-held Thanet South, Rugby & Kenilworth and Braintree, Lib Dem-held Mid-Dorset & North Poole, Norfolk North and Weston-super-Mare â€¦.
At this stage we do not know where the extra postal votes have come from but given the huge increases in CON-LD marginals as well as CON-LAB marginals it appears that the Tories just might be making the running in seats that they could win. If so this could play havoc with all the seat projections based on applying the national swing to each seat.
Already Labour goes into the election with the super-human task of trying to repeat its extraordinary performance four years ago when it managed to get ELEVEN votes in its marginals for every TEN votes it got elsewhere on the national performance. So just to stand still they have to run faster.
If the Tory spread price drops much further then there might be money to be made on a buy bet.
Commons Seat spread-betting prices
IG Index – LAB 354-359: CON 196-201: LD 65-68: SNP 5.3-5.4: PC 4.5-5: DUP 7.8-8.3: SF 4.8-5.3: UUP 2.7 – 3.2: SDLP 1.7 -2.2: RES 0.3- 0.8: UKIP 0-0.3
Spreadfair – LAB 356.2-358: CON 198 -201.5: LD 64.6 – 65.4: SNP 5.3 â€“5.6: PC 4.5 â€“ 4.7: UKIP 0 â€“ 0.5