Lord Ashcroft, the Tory peer who is Cameron’s nemesis, has just produced a very accurate poll of Tory opinion across the country with just 16 months to the election which reveals the Tories as almost certain losers. He divided the 8,000 questioned, a very large sample, into 4 categories: loyalists, joiners, defectors, and considerers. Disastrously for Tory hopes the defectors are by far the largest group. The joiners, i.e. those who did not vote Tory in 2010 but say they will probably do so in 2015, amount only to 6%, while the considerers, i.e. those who didn’t vote Tory last time and wouldn’t tomorrow, but equally wouldn’t rule out being lured into the Tory camp in 2015, are even fewer, namely just 3%.
The joker in the pack are the defectors who number a whopping 37%, four times more than the joiners and considerers combined. So Ashcroft poses the $64,000 question: can Cameron not only keep all the loyalists and joiners, but win over all the considerers and bring back all the defectors? It must be a racing certainty that he can’t. So is Labour home and dry? It certainly isn’t.
It’s clear that Labour isn’t winning over many previous Tory voters since overwhelmingly the Tory defectors are going to UKIP. But that doesn’t matter too much since if Labour is going to be worth its salt and not turn out another pseudo-tory blairite regime, it’s never going to get much from the Tories. But the election will be won or lost in an entirely different context.
The one single issue which would make Labour a racing certainty winner is getting back the 3-4 million non-voters in the last 3 elections, overwhelmingly potential Labour voters, who gave up voting because they thought (correctly) that Labour didn’t really represent them any more and (correctly again) there was hardly anything to choose between the two main parties. The Tories have certainly been very helpful in exposing that there is now a very real difference, with the Tory Nasty Party in full cry, but Labour has still failed to rise to the challenge to show that it is positively and strongly on their side.
What is really missing is a Labour Party that is strong, self-confident, enthusiastic and convinced it is going to win and therefore going for the jugular. Above all the weakness lies in economic policy where the country is crying out for an alternative to endless austerity and which will cut the budget faster whilst at the same time investing strongly in jobs, industry, growth and exports – a combination which serendipitously is entirely possible and obviously necessary. So why isn’t Labour shouting that from the rooftops, especially since the present so-called ‘recovery’ is anything but, with business investment and wages and productivity and exports all drastically depressed and still falling?