What does this say about Tory polling wobbles?

What does this say about Tory polling wobbles?

Gallup polls 1970 CON LAB LIB
January 48% 41% 7%
February 48% 41% 9%
March 46% 41% 9%
April 47% 42% 7%
May 42% 49% 7%
June 42% 49% 7%
Election: June 18th 46.2% 43.8% 7.6%

Can the blues take comfort from Heath’s 1970 victory?

Just look at the table showing the Gallup polls in 1970 in the six months ahead of the general election. Look in particular at how Heath’s Conservatives were well ahead until the May-June period when the whole situation was turned on its head. Look also at the actual result.

This follows yesterday’s focus on 1950 when Labour did something that it has only ever done once – recovered from a series of poll deficits and managed to hang onto power.

For the record since then is not good – Labour has never recovered from a series of polling deficits to hold onto power irrespective of whether or not they’ve managed to pull things back at some stage in the preceding twelve months.

Maybe, in the question I posed yesterday, Brown can do a Clement Attlee? Maybe not?

In June 1970 Harold Wilson went into the final week with good margins with one pollster, Marplan, pointing to a 9% Labour lead. The only hint that something might be amiss came in the final survey taken on the last day of the campaign which had Heath’s Tories just ahead.

As can be seen above Heath had been enjoying election winning leads until the final two months when it appeared things were going wrong. The turnaround was picked up by all the pollsters and one pre-election poll had Labour being the party “thought likely to win” by 68% to 13%.

What might be relevant here is that May-June Tory wobble. Heath’s party didn’t recover to their previous polling position but they came home with enough of a lead to clinch an overall majority of 30 seats.

The election of 1970 was the only post war general election that saw a party with an adequate working majority being replaced by another that also had a reasonable majority. With all the other changes of government either the outgoing party had lost an effective working majority (1951, 1979 and 1997) or else the incoming party didn’t win enough seats to govern effectively (1964 and February 1974).

So if a Cameron majority government replaces Labour’s majority administration then he’ll be doing something that’s only happened once, 1970, in nearly two thirds of a century.

Mike Smithson

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