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The Tories won’t win because they’re barking up the wrong tree

Minority VerdictGeorge Eaton in the New Statesman has done us a service by revisiting the informative audit of the 2010 election by the Tory pollster Lord Ashcroft, entitled Minority Verdict, which throws new relevant light on the likely outcome of the present election campaign. In 2010, despite Labour polling the second lowest total of electors since 1918 and Gordon Brown being the most unpopular prime minister in modern times, the Tories still failed to win, ending up with 305 seats, 21 seats short of an outright majority. The question of course is why in such auspicious circumstances (for them), they still dramatically failed. Their assumption was that they had been cheated of victory by all the leader’s newfangled modernisation stuff like Cameron’s bobsleighing in the Arctic or hugging a hoodie. But Ashcroft’s survey tells a very different tale.

The strong arguments against the Tories winning this time round are well known In hundreds of polls over 4 and a half years Labour has consistently held a lead, albeit a narrow one, in all but 4 or 5. In the marginals where elections are often decided, the Labour lead has been substantially larger (around 12-15% in many cases). In the local elections last May Labour all but secured an overall majority in national constituency terms (though since that date the rise of UKIP in England and the continuing insurgency in Scotland has altered the overall balance to an unpredictable degree). But the importance of the Ashcroft 2010 findings casts new light on the present situation.

What Ashcroft found was that too few voters trusted the Tories to manage public services and to govern in the interests of all. That is a critical observation because in the last 5 years the Tories have done just about everything they could to validate these concerns. They have made it an icon of their administration to switch public services out of the ethic of equal commitment to all towards a fully marketised State in which these key services are made subject, not to the common good, but to the dictates of a money-drive market system. The Tory restructuring of the NHS to maximize private interests fits this bill exactly, as does the switch away from a balanced and accountable public educational network to a lottery run by rich, and often eccentric, businessmen. The Tories have made clear they want a State controlled entirely by private markets, and therefore where power rests entirely with money. This is far more transparent in 2015 than in 2010, and it is most definitely not what the public wants.

The Tories could also hardly have made it plainer that they do not govern in the interests of all. Their abolition of the 50p tax rate combined with the imposition of the bedroom tax, their sanctioning (i.e. depriving of all income) of over 1 million benefit claimants last year whilst prosecuting just 1 tax evader out of the 6,000 British tax evaders exposed in the HSBC Swiss bank scandal, and their announcement of further draconian welfare cuts at the same time as they held their own sumptuous fund-raising black-and-white ball – all that says it all.

Europe, welfare and immigration are not the fundamental issues: public services and governing for all, not the top 1%, are the real issues.

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