Could the tactical switchers of ’97 now go straight to the Tories?
One of aspects of the electorate that both the YouGov Scottish poll and this week’s GB survey from Angus-Reid have shown is the very distinctive approach to the Lockerbie bomber release by Lib Dem voters.
This is symptomatic I believe of their approach to politics generally and why what they think and do at elections can have a disproportionate impact at general elections. We saw that in 1997 when in Labour targets they were ready to “lend their support” to Tony Blair’s party to help oust the Tories.
In 2001 they seemed even more motivated to keep the Tories out and through their actions in seats that Labour had taken four years earlier helped Tony Blair to retain almost all of his majority even though his vote share and vote total was down.
By the last election in 2005 it was a different story. In the aftermath of the Iraq War the big shift was a six point reduction in the Labour share and Labour lost seats not because of moves to Michael Howard’s Tories but because the Lib Dem tactical voters of the previous two elections had gone back home.
The move was dubbed as “tactical unwind”. Given current polling I wonder whether in key seats we will see many of these voters go to the Tories in those key constituencies where such moves matter. Quite simply will we get “Double Tactical Unwind”.
The signs are there that something big is happening with this segment of the electorate. Back in August 2007 YouGov found that Lib Dem supporters split by 60% -to 23% in favour of Labour when asked “If you had to choose, which would you prefer to see after the next election, a Conservative government led by David Cameron or a Labour government led by Gordon Brown?”. These voters are now given the Tories a significant lead.
This was backed up this week in the ICM poll when voters were asked, whether a Tory government under David Cameron, or a Labour one under Gordon Brown, would be best for Britain. A total of 56% of Lib Dems voters said they would rather see the Tories in power, against 36% who want Labour.
The critical thing here is what these voters do in specific seats when they are fully appraised of local electoral situations. If enough of them vote tactically for the Tories then Labour will suffer disproportionate losses on top of the swing predictions.
This is why the battle for the centre ground is paramount and why the biggest danger to Cameron is if he is seen to be giving ground to his right wing.