Or is defeatism just too widespread?
Last night alongside Ben Page, CEO of MORI, I spoke at a fringe meeting at Labour’s conference about the coming general election and the likely outcome.
At the end of the session the chair, Lord Foulkes, asked for a show of hands on what the audience believed would happen. They voted 1. Labour majority: 2 Hung parliament 3. Tory majority. This was a night for keeping your spirits up and there’s little doubt that they had been energised and cheered by the conference speech earlier from Peter Mandelson.
That however was in public. In private conversations the mood was more realistic.
What struck me was that Labour had it so easy right from September 1992 that they thought that this would run and run almost indefinitely. They believed that the Tories were so manifestly awful that there was just no way that they would face a serious threat again.
That meant that they could find a replacement for Blair without taking too much notice of issues like Brown’s electability. They were the party that was right and their opponents wrong and that would be obvious to voters.
So the polling, particularly of the past six months since Smeargate sent them into the 20s, has hit hard.
They have simply not been ready for the ruthless Michael Ashcroft campaign to put the money into the key LAB>CON marginals – something that’s seen as somehow being unfair. They also find it hard to accept the data that shows Lib Dem supporters might not just withdraw from tactically voting for them – but could switch to the Tories to get Labour out.
What I found amazing was a lack of awareness of this week’s Lisbon referendum in Ireland and the possible opportunity that a YES vote could present to Labour. A party that was confident and battle-ready would be waiting to pounce.
The MORI poll: Ben Page confirmed to me the C36-L24-LD 25 figures reported last night and the fact that the fieldwork took place after the Lib Dem conference. I will cover this when I’ve seen more detail.