What’s behind the increase in turnout?
With Camp Brown stepping up the pressure on Lucky Tony the primary focus this post-election weekend is the Labour succession. Will the the not so coded calls for a “transition time-table” have any impact and bring the almost inevitable Brown leadership a little bit closer?
It’s beginning to look that way and I’ve now closed down my betting position that Blair would make it until the end of next year. The big long-term question is how will the new Tory leader do against Brown in the General Election? What does Thursday say about that?
We’ll have to wait for a few weeks before we see overall figures but there’s little doubt that a greater proportion of people voted on Thursday compared with 2002 and 2003 – the last years when local elections were held on their own.
My strong sense is that there’s a greater interest because of the way the media has been covering David Cameron and the increasing awareness that Tony Blair’s days are coming to an end. Suddenly politics is becoming interesting again.
For a wide range of reasons politics has hardly been off the front pages for months and there’s a feeling that change is in the air.
Where I live in Bedford – a Westminster seat that the Tories must win back next time if they want to re-gain power – the turnout on Thursday was more than 41%. In one ward here, a Labour stronghold, the Tory challenger increased the party vote from 303 two years ago to 1,013 while the Labour vote went up as well. Something is happening out there.
Whether a new Labour leader will reap the same benefits that John Major got after taking over from Margaret Thatcher in 1990 is hard to say. But there’s little doubt that many traditional Labour supporters have been alienated by the Blair years and there is a great opportunity for Gordon Brown.
My concern about David Cameron is that he has shown that he can get easily rattled if put under pressure. He’s good at the well prepared sound-bite brilliantly delivered but how well does he think on his feet?
My concern about Gordon Brown is that he’s yet to show that he’s capable of developing rhetoric and non-Treasury ideas that resonate across the country. His call to boost “Britishness” went down like a damp squib.
From the conventional bookmakers the Tories are now favourites to win most seats. The Betfair betting exchange has Labour just ahead. If you want to bet on Labour then perhaps now is the time. The price will surely tighten when the leadership issue is settled.