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Labour still odds-on not only to win election, but overall majority too

polling station pottyNow that the storm-in-a-teacup in the PLP orchestrated by 3 ne’er-do-well malcontents and gleefully inflated by the Tory tabloids is over, it is as well to assess the state of play before another bout of self-indulgent hysterics blows up. Before the PLP gets afflicted again with a turn of the jitters, look at the evidence.

The latest poll puts Labour on 32%, the Tories on 31%, UKIP on 14% and the LibDems trailing at 11%. This 1% Labour lead is dismissed as wafer-thin and fragile – and of course a 5-10% lead would be much more reassuring – but the significance of that 1% is widely misunderstood. If there were an election now with that polling distribution deployed across the country in a uniform swing, Labour would now have 55 more seats than the Tories and with 321 seats would be just 5 seats short of an overall majority. Not a bad position from which to start an election campaign!

Nor is this just a polling freak. Just 6 months ago in the May elections Labour ended up with a virtually identical spread of votes across the country – actual votes, not responses to pollsters – which left the party just 4 seats short of an overall majority. So despite the roller-coaster of the last 6 months, Labour remains in a potentially commanding position.

There’s a lot more evidence that is relevant too. The Survation poll only a day or two earlier put Labour again on 31%, but the Tories at 27%and UKIP at 23% – a bigger margin over the Tories and UKIP exerting greater damage to the Tories. The Rochester by-election in a week’s time will almost certainly fall to UKIP, which will very likely provoke further Tory defections.

The Financial Times has already identified 2 weeks ago 5 Tory MPs who would be more likely to keep their seats if they defected to UKIP. The Tory party is already on the cusp of a split over Europe, and the only question is whether it happens before or after the election. The Tory shambles in the debate (or rather non-debate) in the Commons on Monday over the European Arrest Warrant shows how far the rot has already set in. Perhaps most significant of all, Ashcroft’s polling points up another crucial point, that Labour’s lead in the marginals where it really counts is higher than the average across the country.

None of this is to suggest it’s a done deal. It certainly isn’t. The major inroads by UKIP and the SNP provide a major confounding element of uncertainty, and both have to be addressed though not by a welter of personal attacks which nearly always turn out counter-productive. What is needed are two things. One is a rapid rebuttal machine to counter quickly and effectively the lies increasingly pouring out of the Tory machine. The other, even more important, is a commanding narrative focused on the 4 or 5 central issues on which Labour intends to fight the election, and then to stick to them through hell or high water all the way to the election.


  1. David Pavett says:

    I can’t share Michael Meacher’s positive evaluation of Labour ‘success’ in winning the support of less than a third of the electorate. Even if, through the distorting mechanisms of constituency boundaries and FPTP, this were to give Labour a majority which it has not earned, it would be no basis for a radical reforming government. To carry out the deep reforms we need it would be necessary to win majority support. Given that not only has Labour not won support for radical social change but also that it doesn’t have a programme for such change for which it is trying to win support, I suggest that the prospects of a Labour government elected with the support of less than a third of the electorate are far from exciting. It will not make Ed Balls, Chukka Umunna, Douglas Alexander, Rachel Reeves et al into radical reformers.

  2. Bettor says:

    “Labour to win a majority” is certainly NOT odds-on, it’s around 3-1 unless your local bookie is robbing you blind. Odds-on means an implied probability > 50%.

    Labour majority is currently around a 25% probability with ‘hung parliament’ odds on with around 62%.

    Labour to win most seats is just about odds-on, with an implied probability of just over 50%.

    Or just keep using phrases you don’t understand in the headlines if you prefer…

  3. Barry Ewart says:

    Just read excellent piece Guardian and Labour needs to go on the attack with these. Hedge Funds have given £50m to the Tories since the last election and ooh just by absolute co-incidence the Tories gave Hedge Funds a £145m tax cut last year!
    Also by absolute coincidence a former Tory co Treasurer – Lord Farmer who donated £500,000 to the Tories has been made a peer! Also Cameron’s Dinners With Dave have earned the Tories £5m!

  4. Robert says:

    I’m sorry but bif Miliband wins the next election it will be the end of the labour party, New labour nearly did it Miliband lot will with out doubt see the final nail in the coffin for the left.

    I cannot see any reason to vote this bloke into power no matter how serious evil bad what ever the Tories are.

    Miliband has made to may mistakes and the attack on the Union was a Progress attack with him controlled.

    I simple cannot vote for him

  5. Peter Rowlands says:

    It is true that the lower the vote by which a party achieves a majority the less credibility it will have, but we should remember that the Thatcher/Major governments after 1983 never had more than 42% support, although these were undoubtedly radical reforming governments. It is not therefore a question of majority support ( Does this mean 50%? This was last achieved in 1935!), it is about conviction and purpose, which these governments had, at least after seeing off the ‘wets’ in and before the break up under Major. If Labour can project the conviction apparent in Miliband’s Senate speech we may succeed, but a credible winning programme requires the abandonment of austerity.

    1. David Pavett says:

      A radical reforming right-wing government has the media, the forces of the state and big business to help it along. It is not the same for a radical reforming government of the left. So yes, I do believe that a party which can win the support of more than 50% of the electorate is never going to carry out a transformation of society in the direction of socialism. If we give up on the possibility of achieving that (“This was last achieved in 1935”) then we might as well shut up shop now. The stress and strains on a radical left wing government are bound to be too great to make it sensible to thinking of starting from a weaker base than majority support. (Not that I imagine for a moment that the Labour Party would form anything even vaguely looking like a radical left-wing government.)

    2. John Reid says:

      But the 1987’1992 elections were 77% turnouts and two thirds of those who voted SDP liberal, at those elections when asked said that the Toroes were their second choice and the LibDem/ Alliance MPs in the commons voted for Tory policies on Trade union reform,privatisation,

      The best labour has got was 43.5% on a 72% turnout in 1997′ or 39% on the same turnout in 1974′ and 40.9% on a 59% turnout 2001

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