Could the tide turn yet again?
One of the lessons that we have learned in the past two years is that the most dangerous assumption you can make is that things will go on as they are.
After what, with the benefit of hindsight, was a temporary blip in late November and December all the polls have turned and all are suggesting that Gordon Brown will lead Labour to defeat at the general election – now a maximum of only fifteen months away.
And the signs are that the election will result in a party with a working majority in the House of Commons being replaced by another party similarly well placed – something that has happened only once since 1906
That puts Cameron’s ambition into an historical context. All the other changes of government, apart from 1970, have involved either the outgoing or incoming party not having a working majority.
The challenge for Brown and his ministers is that they’ve been written off, the media narrative has turned, and like in the dying days of the Major government there appears little that they can do to turn things round. Everything gets reported in a negative fashion.
A main hope rests with the electoral arithmetic which sets the bar high for the Conservatives. Conventional uniform nation swing calculations suggest that they need a vote margin of at least 8% to be certain. But that, of course, takes what happened in 2005 as the base-line.
When you get swings of mood like this one that calculation might be different. In 1997 it was reckoned that Blair got 25-35 more seats than he should have done from the UNS calculation because of tactical voting. There’s still a fair bit of this to unwind within the system and on top of that we could see more tactical switches in marginals where the sole objective of voters is to get the government out.
But Brown did turn things round for Labour in July-September 2007 and to a lesser extent in November-December 2008. Does he have within him to become the come-back kid a third time?
It’s becoming very hard to see him doing it. Would Labour ditch him at such a late stage in the hope that a new leader would do better against Cameron? Desperate times can lead to desperate measures. I am still not convinced that Brown will lead his party into the election.
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