Progress Yes – but where’s the next 5% going to come from?
On Thursday David Cameron completed his first 100 days as Conservative leader and it’s perhaps a good moment to look at how he’s doing and whether his party is any nearer to power.
The above chart illustrates the implied probability of which party will win most seats at the next General Election based on best prices on the betting exchanges. It shows a very significant move to the Tories in the immediate aftermath of Cameron’s leadership victory but almost no progress since then. Punters still think that Labour will win most seats.
On the new General Election outcome exchange market punters rate Cameron’s chances of winning an overall majority at 3.4/1. Labour is currently a 1.82/1 shot while the favourite is a hung parliament at 1.34/1.
All the pollsters that have regular monthly slots in national newspapers – ICM, Populus and YouGov – have shown a 4-5% gain by the Tories since October and this seems to be being sustained. Unlike MORI, which has shown big fluctuations, these three firms use either party identifier or past vote recall to correct any sample bias.
The number I watch closely is the aggregate Lab/LD figure which was 58-59% in the months leading up to the last General Election and topped the 60% in most polls during last summer. That is now at 54-55% and does seem to reflect a major shift.
But being at 38% is simply not good enough for the Tories. At this level, depending on how the Lab-LD aggregate splits, they would be hard pressed to be the leading party never mind having the Commons seats to form a majority.
The big question is where the next 5% of support is going to come from? While Tony Blair remains at the helm it is hard to see the Tories sustaining ratings beyond current levels. It might be that the polls are right and a Brown Labour leadership could see further progress for Cameron – we simply don’t know.
There’s also been very little public opinion testing since Ming Campbell’s succession to the Lib Dem leadership.
In the meantime we can look forward to the budget in just over a week’s time when David Cameron will be pitted against Gordon Brown for the first time. How will both the men who hope to lead the country after the next election do when they come face to face?