November 29th, 2010
|10:14 pm - Some suggestive figures|
A blog I check about once a week is UK Polling Report, which just summarises the latest poll findings.
YouGov’s weekly poll for the Sunday Times has topline figures of CON 40%, LAB 40%, LDEM 9%. On the regular approval trackers everyone is down – government approval is minus 14, with 50% disapproving of this government for the first time. David Cameron’s net rating drops to plus 2, still positive but the lowest he has recorded as Prime Minister (he recorded much lower scores as Leader of the Opposition back in 2007). Nick Clegg’s approval rating plummets to minus 22, down from minus 13 a week ago and by far his lowest ever score as leader. Ed Miliband’s approval rating has also dropped into negative territory for the first time, down to minus 9 (28% think he is doing well, 37% doing badly).
Another interesting place to look is the betting arena. Of course bookmakers don't really use judgement to set odds on events - they just use loss-adjustment based on amount of money placed.
Paddy Power is offering the following odds on the year of the next general election.
2010 (an absurd bet): 25/1
So there's been quite a lot of betting on an election in the next 12 months. But how can that be? Surely the rules have been changed to prevent us voting until 2015.
Answer - The probability of a split in either/both of the coalition parties is increasing. The issue around which each might split is clear (for the Tories, Europe). However, the likelihood of a split is unclear in my opinion. Clegg is currently looking vulnerable, but he's probably eyeing the Tories, and if he leaves then the LDs will probably remain intact indefinitely. It might even save them from electoral wipe-out.
I wouldn't pay too much attention to the headline YouGov figures, particularly regarding the Liberal Democrat vote share. This is a perennial point of contention on politicalbetting.com.
On the broader picture:
I would still predict the next election happening in 2015. The main players have strong incentives in this direction.
I would be extremely surprised if Clegg, or any other leading Lib Dem, defected to the Tories. Anything's possible, of course, and I can't read their inner souls, but any plausible defection candidate spent years being wooed by the Tories back when the Lib Dems had no chance of power, even when the Tories were riding high against Labour in the polls. They didn't go for it then: why should they jump ship when the Liberal Democrats are in government?
At the moment, the aims of the PM and DPM are clear. Clegg wants to demonstrate that coalition government can work, is nothing to fear, and that the Liberal Democrats are a serious party of government. If he can do this, he eliminates some of the long-standing negative perceptions that have reduced the LD vote. Meanwhile Cameron wants to detoxify the Tory party. He could only partially accomplish this in opposition, hence his failure to win the general election outright against a bankrupt and discredited Labour party, because fine words and pledges can only go so far. He needs to demonstrate by actions in government that the Tories are not bogeymen. In this respect the coalition has been his salvation: the Lib Dems allow him to marginalise the headbangers of the Tory right, and his hope must be that this parliament erases, to a large extent, the negative image the Tories have carried since Thatcher.
So both partners are, potentially, making major strategic gains from this coalition. That's why they're likely to stay together. Will it last till 2015?
Well, at the next election the bottom line will be the economy. If the OBR projections are roughly accurate, and we have economic growth and the return of relative good times, then both parties will benefit and can go to the polls with their different visions of where to go from there. If the OBR is drastically wrong and the economy tanks, they're both fucked.
So as long as the economy continues to recover, both partners have an incentive to stick with the coalition: as the economy gets better year on year, so do their electoral prospects. Only if there's another serious downturn might this change.
The person who should be really worried by these poll figures is Ed Miliband. To lose support when in government making painful decisions is to be expected. To lose support when you're the opposition leader against a government making painful decisions? That takes a special kind of talent.
I have been listening to you (you plural) for the last six months saying how popular you are. It doesn't change anything.
On the doorsteps, the voters have been willing to give the coalition the benefit of the doubt so far; most of them haven't been hit by the consequences of its decisions yet. (Though our constituency chair has lost his job and may have to sell his house if he can't find another soon.)
But branch membership is up by 50%, and members we haven't seen in years have started turning up again, saying they're so incensed they feel they have to do something.
There was a program on telly about Somerset council and they interviewed a woman who was running a little rural library. She said 'Yes, the cuts are great, I support them' and the interviewer said 'What will your next job be?' and she said 'What do you mean? Running this library of course!' Hmmm.