by Stephen Tall on October 23, 2012
Today saw the publication by Lord Ashcroft of an opinion poll he’s funded to find out the likely result at the forthcoming parliamentary by-election in Corby: ‘Labour take 22-point lead in Corby’. I tweeted my insta-verdict: it suggests Labour will win Corby by-election battle but lose the general election war. What prompted the judgement was this paragraph from Lord Aschroft’s commentary:
Most Corby voters (56%) are pessimistic about the economy, thinking that in three or four years time things will be no better or even worse than they are now – although the proportion of those who think the right decisions are being made and things will improve in three or four years (44%) has edged up slightly during the campaign. Cameron, Clegg and Osborne are preferred over Miliband and Balls to manage the economy by 48% to 33%, and indeed by three quarters of those who voted Conservative in 2010 but will vote for someone else at the by-election. Though the Tories retain a strong lead on cutting the deficit and the debt, Labour have a small advantage on “getting the economy growing and creating jobs”.
No-one can predict the 2015 general election outcome with any certainty. But my best guess of what will happen is, as I wrote a fortnight ago:
… the fundamentals of the election pitch the Coalition parties will make in 2015 are largely unaffected: Labour landed the UK in an economic mess; we’ve begun clearing it up; we deserve some more time to make it come good. I’m wary of historical analogies, but the next election could easily become another 1992, when mega mid-Parliament Labour poll leads melted away as the economy crawled out of recession and the prospect of a Neil Kinnock-led Labour party winning drove voters back into the arms of the Tories. ‘Hold onto nurse for fear of something worse’ became the unofficial slogan of that Tory campaign, and could easily become so again. It’s safe to vote Labour when the economy’s doing okay (as it was by 1997, and again in 2001 and 2005) but not when it’s teetering (1992, 2010). I’m caricaturing for effect, but I’m sure Labour strategists are aware of the risks that sluggish growth could inflict on their chances in two-and-a-bit years’ time.
So the polling data I’m most interested in at the moment relates to 1) how effective the public thinks the major parties will be at managing the economy in the best interests of them and their families; and 2) who they think are the best team of leaders. On this basis, I think the Tories are in a stronger position right now than Labour. That’s the context to the following Twitter conversation with my old friend Natt on the predictive powers of polling…