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David Miliband is wrong. The Tories can’t win the next election.

David Miliband’s parting shot before leaving Britain was an interview with Andrew Marr where he argued that the Tories can win a majority at the next general election. At the same time, serious forces inside the Conservative Party argue that they have no hope of winning in 2015. They can’t both be right.

SEB has argued over a prolonged period that the Tory Party is in decline. In 2009 and 2010 articles published here correctly forecastthat the Tories would be unable to gain an overall a majority, even though they had recently been running very strongly in the polls. From the same analysis it is possible to predict that the Tory vote will fall below the 36% secured at the last election and indeed the Tories will have difficulty in gaining substantially over 30% of the vote in 2015. As a result David Miliband is completely wrong, the Tories will be unable to form a majority government. 

The analysis of the Tory decline is based on long-established trends. These trends reflect changes in British society and its role in the world. In effect the Tory party expanded beyond its strongholds in the shires – especially in the South and South-East excluding London – as Britain expanded its role in the world. As Britain’s imperial role declined and society altered, so too did the electoral support for the Tories, with some time lag. Tory electoral support is being pushed back to its original heartlands in the south outside of London.

The full basis for this analysis first appeared in 1983 in John Ross’sThatcher and Friends. This can now be found in its entirety on this blog here. The chart below shows the declining trend in Tory support in actual general elections rather than opinion polls.

This key fact, so routinely ignored by innumerable political commentators now including David Miliband, was first identified in 1983. 30 years later it still holds true. If the Tories vote in 2015 were strictly on trend, and they suffer an electoral defeat, it will fall back to 30.3%.

The siren song of David Miliband, and others on the Labour right, that the Tories are most likely to win in 2015 is coupled to an argument that they only way to prevent this is for Labour to adopt Tory policies. This is entirely false. The consistent decline of the Conservative votes shows that Tory policies have been unattractive, not attractive, to voters. It has been Scottish and Welsh Nationalists, and the Liberal Democrats, that have gained votes. Labour’s recent swing towards Tory policies has therefore completely foreseeably led to no increase in support at all – but will demoralise a significant number of potential Labour supporters.

Miliband and the Labour right’s argument are pitted against not just the current opinion polls but against the whole post-war trend in Tory support.


  1. Robert says:

    We will know at the next election, just have to wait a year and a bit.

    I suspect when you state people are going for the nationalist then state Plaid your not taking into account the mess Plaid made going into coalition with Welsh Labour, they like the Liberals became the mouth piece for Labour forgetting everything people had voted for them.

    We had Plaid sticking up for Labour, once they were out of the coalition Plaid who had been hammered at the election did not understand why, they had been in power after all.

    In Scotland Labour now attack the SNP for not having student fees, for having bus passes for the rich elderly, for not charging prescription fees.

    The real question is not whether the Tories will win the next election but what are labour offering which would make me want to vote for them, or not vote at all.

    Will the next election be hung no, will Labour win the next election I do not know or much care, because they are not offering much.

    Are we in recovery maybe maybe not, but would it make much difference if Labour were in power, not sure, my own feeling is the public will think well we may as well give the Tories another spell to try and sort out the mess.

    We have two political parties neither is really trusted, both are now in the doldrums with voters, so it comes down to the party which can make the most impact

  2. Rod says:

    “Labour’s recent swing towards Tory policies”

    If Labour wins in 2015 it will still be a Tory victory.

  3. Susan says:

    Is there any chance of seeing a similar graph for the trend of Labour’s share of the vote? Would like to compare.

  4. Johnny says:

    Yes the Tory vote did fal by 2.6%. From 79-83′ but what did the labour vote fall from 79-83′ 9.7%’

    ,but the difference then was that two thirds of the people who voted SDP in 83′ second choice was Tory, if there are disillusioned Libdems now , they’re not going to vote Labour,

  5. Susan says:

    To answer my own question, Labour trend is much better, though not upward. Graph here:

  6. Robert says:

    Trends, graphs, sound more like Major and Kinnock to me. go home lets get ready to party, whoops what went wrong what do you mean we lost, the polls said I was miles ahead, sadly the voters did not think so.

    Can Miliband pull it off, he’s going to have to do better.

  7. Johnny says:

    Susan I don’t see how labours vote compared to the Tories is (just) better, the worse swings to the Tories were the 10% in 97′ but the worse Tory result was 30% in 1997′ the worse labour one was 27% in 83′

  8. Susan says:

    Hi Johnny. I think it’s the overall trend that counts. There are short term oscillations for both parties but Labour’s overall trend is flat in comparison to the Tories’ obviously downward one.

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