Just another poll?

Polls come and go. They often make little difference. Yesterday’s poll showing the gap down to 2% was one of those polls that is a news maker in its own right. People interested in politics have been talking about it ever since.

Let me make it clear to all Labour spin doctors and their friends in the media that I never make predictions of the result of an election where I am involved. If I am asked “Are you going to win?” I will always answer with a variant of “We want to win, we are trying hard to win, we will win if the electorate wishes” etc. To claim you are going to win can look arrogant or complacent. To suggest you might lose would be defeatist and downright stupid. It invites the question “Why are you bothering at all?”. Until the votes are cast no-one can be sure of the outcome. Polls are usually accurate reflections of the mood of people when polled, but people may be in a different mood come polling day or even when the next poll is taken.

Standing in the queue to pay for milk and newspapers yesterday morning in a local shop one person said to another without my intervention “If they lose the Conservatives only have themselves to thank for it”. That to me summed up so much of what has gone wrong in British politics in recent years. It summed up the them and us attitude, reflecting the mood that elecitons are to decide which politicians get which jobs. There was no thought that they are to decide what happens next, what policies will be followed, what the impact of politicians on your daily lives might be. Elections are for all the voters to be involved, to have their say, to wrestle with the issues as well as the personalities. Voters end up with the government they choose, so they need to accept some responsibility.

This poll raises a few crucial questions. Will other polls back it up? Will the public, seeing it, decide that after all they do not want five more years of a Brown led government? Will potential Conservative voters come to see that this is a real contest between two groups of politicians,Labour and Conservative, rather than an abstract referendum on the present Conservative leadership and their policies? Or will Mr Brown claim that the momentum is with him, and win over floating voters to the notion that we do need five more years of what we have been getting? Can he really persaude people that the falling living standards, rising taxes and huge debts are as good as it gets?

We also need to watch the markets. The government debt market, which helps decide how much we have to pay for the money we borrow, could react negatively if they think this government can be re-elected to carry on borrowing too much. The pound may also take a further knock, which makes us worse off as imports grow dearer.


  1. Irene
    March 1, 2010

    What a very opportune poll it was!

    1. Michele
      March 3, 2010

      I watched the programme 'Tower Block of Commons' with interest.

      A resident of one of the tower blocks was asked by Mark Oaten if he would sign a demolition petition, and at the same time he asked the man about his political views and whether he was going to vote.

      The resident said that he was going to support the BNP.

      Mark Oaten then challenged him to say why he would vote BNP, and he said he was doing it for British jobs. He went on to say that he wasn't a racist ('my best mate is black', he said).

      Mark Oaten (nice fellow as he is) then looked sad and shocked.

      He then did what all politicians seem to do. He simply focussed on the race issue (as PC as ever) taking the opportunity of putting down the BNP.

      Can't politicians EVER focus on the real issues.

      What the resident – AND ALL OF US – want, is ANSWERS, ANSWERS, ANSWERS.

      We want to know clearly and concisely (amongst other things) who is going to stop entry to a country which doesn't have the money and jobs to support anyone else coming into it.

      I think its clear. The conversatives are losing their lead because they are first and foremost not listening.

      If they WERE listening, they would put clear policies together which answer our questions and grave concerns.

      If they lose the election it is because they are not LISTENING.

  2. Simon D
    March 1, 2010

    The most telling phrase in your blog today is 'Watch the markets'. There will be a lot of that going on up to the day the election and, if there is a hung parliament, a few days after it.

    The verdict of the markets may not coincide with the verdict of the left-liberal loving UK voters. Markets don't like governments or countries which are inclined to live persistently above their means or refuse to pay down their debts.

    In the long run, markets always deliver a verdict. Often, as in Greece, it is not what the voters or their elected political class want to hear.

  3. Norman
    March 1, 2010

    My gut feeling is that when it comes down to it people will vote Conservative. It's one thing to have a moan about a particular aspect of current policy that you don't agree with, or to threaten to vote UKIP (I'm always reminded of the 'cancelling my Private Eye subscription' line whenever I read that) but I do believe that most conservative thinking people cannot in good conscience allow another 5 years of this.

    I've been thinking about this over the weekend and it's not all bad. If the Conservatives win David Cameron may be proven to be right in moving away from the conservative 'comfort zone' of low taxes, individual responsibility, small government and free markets – if he is right then it is good news as the economy will be back on track, albeit with a massive public sector. If he isn't right then the Conservative Party will have no choice but to move back into that traditional 'comfort zone' as the economy will be in a shambles and the new approach will have been shown to failed as contrasted to the comfort zone variety that got us out of a worse pickle in the 1980's and laid the foundations for 25 years of growth.

    If Labour win then the fallout from being unable to defeat the worst government in living memory will be to move back into the traditional comfort zone.

    Of course, the bad news is that in two of those three scenarios the economy collapses and we're all poorer for it.

    A hung parliament – anything could happen.

      March 1, 2010

      3 of our group of 5 attended the Brighton Spring Conference at the weekend.
      We decided to sit and socialise separately to form a broad impression before getting together on Sunday evening at the close. With a few adjustments in emphasis we saw things in pretty similar terms. One of us was interviewed by 3 media organisations – BBC Radio, Newsweek magazine and Channel 4 News – at Saturday lunchtime and the latter piece even made the evening bulletin.

      We have blogged regularly here and elsewhere of late to suggest a sharpening and strengthening of the party message and its presentation in more memorable man-in-the-street language. Terms we have used include:





      • Cut Waste
      • Cut the UK debt
      • Cut Immigration
      • And Cut the Nonsense!

      Not necessarily election winners but illustrative of our point.
      Bring in the admen & wordsmiths NOW we believe to help cut through confusion.

      We thought the weekend’s performances, with the exception of Michael Gove and Ken Clarke who both presented specific ways of making deep-seated changes, were far too woolly still, particularly Theresa May and her team on benefits changes and job creation. Andrew Lansley was sound and his new cancer recruit spoke encouragingly.

      We believe there are still specific initiatives for the manifesto that will make the difference between limping across the line and winning comfortably and we shall blog again in the coming days.

      1. Michele
        March 3, 2010

        What a pity they won't listen, for listen they will not.

        I know UKIP isn't going anywhere, but I HAVE, HAVE, HAVE to vote for them. They are the only ones representing my views.

        All the nonsense in your list is pretty much down to our involvement in Europe.

  4. Chris
    March 1, 2010

    See F T this morning: Gilts lose triple A lustre for investors: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f14fb952-249e-11df-8be0

  5. Albert Hall
    March 1, 2010

    The markets have already reacted according to the FT.

  6. Brian Tomkinson
    March 1, 2010

    JR: “If they lose the Conservatives only have themselves to thank for it”…………..

    I think you may have misunderstood the comment you overheard in the shop. I think the person was remarking that the Labour government is so bad that the Conservatives should have no difficulty in winning the election and if they don't it will because they have wasted a golden opportunity by failing to convince people that they should vote for them. I feel the same way. Your party's biggest selling point is that it is not Labour, but that isn't a great comfort when contemplating what the next five years will bring. Many of us have been hoping to hear some positive reasons to vote Conservative but instead have heard negatives on grammar schools, the EU, AGW, waffle on immigration and confusion about cutting public spending and reducing taxation. Dare I say that this may have something to do with the narrowing of the lead in the opinion polls?

  7. Mike Stallard
    March 1, 2010

    Brilliant BBC this morning had a discussion on David Cameron's speech. On the one side was an old buffer of a Conservative from what used once to be the shires. His point was that the leadership of both parties was so out of touch that it didn't really matter which cabal was elected. On the other hand was Fraser Nelson (I am a big fan of his) sounding rather twee and Scottish.
    Reading the comments on this very blog, I think the old buffer had a big point.
    Who locally pays for the Conservatives or the Labour?
    So it really is us and them.
    At the end of the day, he who pays the piper calls the tune. And the old buffer is not paying anything much compared to the TU or Lord Ashcroft.
    In a way, the old ladies had a point, didn't they. What the Metrosexuals believe in London is one set of stuff. What everyone else thinks is totally alien. (EU? Immigration? Gay people? Welfare State? Punishment for crime?)

  8. backofanenvelope
    March 1, 2010

    If you campaign on the slogan "Vote for Change", then you have to expect people to ask – what change? If the electorate are happy with your bunch doing more or less the same as this current lot – then you'll win. But what if they just say – whats the point?

  9. oldrightie
    March 1, 2010

    You must agree the timing was immaculate. Labour have a very unpleasant grip on this Country.

  10. Sally C.
    March 1, 2010

    To me, the problem of apathy and the 'them and us' attitude starts in schools. Schools do not discuss the political system with their pupils. There is no attempt to make students aware of their own political power. A lot of young people feel completely disconnected from the political process and feel that they are ignorant about the key economic issues, because no-one talks to them about these things. Unfortunately, that ignorance is prevalent everywhere, except here.

  11. waramess
    March 1, 2010

    Scary, isn't it? Let this be a clear mesage to any future leader of the conservative Party not to dabble in the scourceery of socialism again but to stay on the straight and narrow.

    We are not empowered, and we do not get the party we deserve. We vote within a three party system where our candidate will in the end do not what he or she has promised at the election but whatever his or her party leader dictates.

    Not only did I not vote for the present shower in government but I did not vote for my MP to back away fron an EU referendum nor did I vote for my MP to slavishly follow the party line on the various soft socialist policies the party leadership is offering, just in order to further his career.

    I can only be in any way empowered when the current system of whipping is diluted to a very loose collection of MP's who have similar ideas.

    Brown gave Dave his spectacular lead, but it is Dave and his chums who are now squandering it.

    So I agree with those in the queue: the conservatives will only have themselves to blame.

  12. English Pensioner
    March 1, 2010

    I'm sorry, but with George Osborn as shadow chancellor, there is no way I would vote Conservative. He appears to have less understanding of the situation than Darling, The impression I, and no doubt others, get is that he is there just because he is one of Cameron's cronies.
    Yes, any time now the Conservatives are about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!

    1. Sally C.
      March 1, 2010

      Please don't let your opinion of George Osborne stop you from voting Conservative. It is only by voting Conservative that you have any chance of keeping the value of any savings that you have. If you vote for any other party the pound is going to continue to weaken and inflation is going to keep going up. This election is so important that it should transcend personalities. People can be changed if necessary after the election.

      1. English Pensioner
        March 2, 2010

        Actually where I live it doesn't matter who I vote for. Our local Tory party clique has already chosen our next MP. With a 15,000 majority, the ordinary voter has no say in te matter!

  13. Kevin Peat
    March 1, 2010

    "Elections are for all the voters to be involved, to have their say, to wrestle with the issues as well as the personalities."

    The major issue which everyone I know yearns to wrestle with is barely on the agenda.

    We most certainly don't get the government of choice. The majority are effectively disenfranchised.

    Repeat after me:

    We have no choice

    We have no choice

    We have no choice

    We have no choice …

    1. Number 6
      March 4, 2010

      Indeed, just like Dave let us do with the EU referendum.

  14. Ian Jones
    March 1, 2010

    Judging by the currency markets, they have already decided they don't like what they see.

    The pound is quickly falling to the crisis levels reached early last year. The Bank of England can control the Gilt market by printing money but the pound will show the true picture until capital controls are enacted.

    We are now heading to a death spiral and the only way out is to cut spending and raise taxes.

  15. Javelin
    March 1, 2010

    John, the message is going to be difficult to put across because Brown has created so many meaningless and unproductive jobs that those people in those jobss believe if they vote Labour there will be a small chance, however slim, that their job will be saved.

    I don't think Cameron or Osborne have done enough to spell out the level of debt. You hear about 12% GDP or 100% of this or that. But it really doesn't mean anything. In fact in doesn't mean anything to me and I work in the financial markets.

    What matters to me is how much debt I have hanging over my neck and my childrens nets. All that really matters is how much, in addition to my tax needs to be paid back.

    Didn't we only just pay the debt from WW2 back, and now the debt is higher than WW2. Put the figures simply, either the tax payer must pay back £30,000 (or whatever) and we can either raise taxes by £2000 a year, or make savings or £2000 a year. It's got to be a simple message based on the individual voter.

    Going forward the debt per head figure needs to be write large. It needs to be announced every month just like the unemployment figures. Cameron needs to follow through on his pledge to make the spending transparent so we can see why the figure is going up or coming down.

    1. Chris
      March 1, 2010

      Yes, and teh Cons. ought to be saying how much per minute the govt is borrowing and stressing the fact that it is our money. Maybe the figures for borrowing worked out as per individual taxpayer each day would bring the message home.

      1. Henry
        March 1, 2010

        See link to explain why the 'recovery' was raised to 0.03%. It turns out that the GDP was revised'down', hence making any improvement in the recovery a marginally larger percentage of the GDP! http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/edmundconway

        Brown's grip oon the ONS is even greater than we thought.

    2. alan jutson
      March 1, 2010


      Agree absolutely £1,000,000 has a lot more impact than £1 million

      With £1 billion and £1 trillion most people do not understand the difference.


      We also ned to show off balance sheet debt as a total as well, like PFI and Public Pension debt.

  16. ThousandsOfMilesAway
    March 1, 2010

    Yep, the pound is only going one way it would seem. Check out the huge continuation wedge developing throughout the whole of 2009 in EURGBP

    This is A Good Thing, a lot of commentators seem to think, but can't really see it myself – good for government debtors and exporters, but everyone else?

    This high probability pattern indicates new highs are likely in the next few months – I don't think that sub-par to the Euro is going to play well in the press, do you?

    Back to politics and I think that the Tories will get in, but really there isn't much to choose between the main parties these days and this is the problem – it's the system itself that is broken.

    There is no reason to continue with representative democracy for the vast bulk of business – technology makes much more local direct democracy feasible for the first time in history.

    Legislative competition should hopefully work much like tax competition in restraining the worst impulses of overweening politicos with too much time on their hands.

    Which is exactly why they will never implement it. And that, I suspect, is why it may take a bomb (metaphorical or literal) under parliaments in Westminster, Strasbourg et al to turn the ship around.

  17. Sir Graphus
    March 1, 2010

    If you were asking for suggestions, I'd say that Cameron was spending too much time trying to formulate his positive policies (all laudable stuff), and too little emphasising the basic point that Brown has bankrupted us all.

  18. Tim Coates
    March 1, 2010

    John, It has happened already. The markets fear 5 more years of Brown or an indecisive hung parliament. Conservative government has to be credible on the economy and soon.

    See here: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f14fb952-249e-11df-8be0

    Keep up the excellent advice and there is hope for a Conservative run Treasury.

  19. Michael Lewis
    March 1, 2010

    I'm a little suprised that G. Brown hasn't called an election for Mar 25th today… But you have to ask yourself, given the mess the economy is in – why aren't Labour further behind in the polls. Specially given the dead weight of Brown as leader. Partly, it must be because of so many state employees that realise the game is up.
    Looking at sterling now – again below 1.50$ we can see that Brown and Mervy King plan on inflating the debt away. The economy is in the process of being wrecked – if Labour aren't voted out – its because of David Cameron's judgement – his choice of shadow chancellor.

  20. Andy Hoff
    March 1, 2010

    Looks like we're heading for a hung parliament and probably a collapse in foreign investor confidence causing a run on the pound.
    Britain certainly is getting what it deserves after voting Labour and letting the political and financial elites ruin the country for more than a decade.
    Let's face it if DC and Co. can't win against the appalling Gordon how good would they be in government?
    Maybe a real collapse will focus peoples minds on reality and allow a proper shakeup in the way we're governed.

  21. Rare Breed
    March 1, 2010


    I'd be interested in your take on Hannan and Carswell's agenda in "The Plan" and on their blog sites.

    I know politicians are essentially individual animals but it would be nice to know that the genuine fiscal conservatives in the party might work together.

    The trouble with all this unity behind one (non) message is that traditional Tory voters are starting to be concerned about the direction/future of the party.


    Reply: There's a lot good in the Plan, as I said on this site when it first came out.

  22. Bill
    March 1, 2010

    The them and us attitude between the public and politicians – it was ever thus.

    Pointless lamenting it John, because that’s the way the world is…pointless waiting for the world to change you’ll be waiting a long time.

    The Conservative’s should get their policies across systematically and clearly. Instead of waffling on about co operatives in the public sector. (What a waste of a media event that was there’s more talk of quadratic equations in the pub than this)

    Ring fencing foreign aid.. Another rock in the sack.
    They could have had a few radical policies like bring back Grammar Schools

    …look at sterling today down over 2% against the dollar

    March 1, 2010

    You have made some very pertinent points here, as usual. As I am just returned from a sunshine break it occured to me that a good polling weapon the Conservatives are not using yet is the cost of future holidays abroad for virtually every UK family .Due to the weakness of sterling all the contracts being negotiated now must reflect in much higher priced accommodation and flights in next years offering from the holiday companies, would you care to put some figures on this?. This is a very potent argument for many people and handsomely illustrates how badly we have fared internationally under Labour.

  24. Neil Craig
    March 1, 2010

    "Voters end up with the government they choose, so they need to accept some responsibility"

    Perhaps we end up with the government, out of a choice of 2 on offer, that we choose but that is hardly the same as a free general choice.

    You cannot both say you want a system which so limits choice, threaten us with the chance of the other lot getting in & thenn hold us responsible for the sort of government we get.

    I choose a government that wants the British economy to grow faster than the world average; not to engage in aggresive & pointless wars; not to double our electricity bills to subsidise windmillers & other parasites; not to subsidise parasites; to allow people to build decent homes rather than pouring all the money into regulation; to let us make use of the unlimited potential available in technological progress; to quit the EU because its bureaucracy is strangling us; whose referendum or cast iron promised are worth something. I don't think these are unreasonable or even that I am in a minority on them.

    So who do I responsibly vote for to get the government I choose? That is part of why we desperately need a democratic electoral system – at least it would give us a choice.

    It has been said that what we see in America with the Tea Party movement is that having voted purely because they didn't want the big government republicans Creeps they are now voting out the democrat Nuts. Because there system, with primaries, is somewhat more open to innovation than ours they may indeed end up with a traditional small state conservative government. Who do we vote for if we want that.

  25. A.Sedgwick
    March 1, 2010

    Who can forget tough on…………… from the spinmeister. On reading another harrowing attack and killing of a retired couple in Rugby it is time the gloves were taken off on crime, yobs and violent criminals. I fear that it is another area where DC is too PC really to get to grips with the problem as with the EU, immigration and "human rights". I am not sure what human rights my relatives had in two world wars.

    The polls are merely verification of no party seizing the initiative and offering policies expressing the will of the majority. Basically Cameron is failing bigtime to capitalise on the disaster that is Nulabour and Brown in particular.

  26. Alan Wheatley
    March 1, 2010

    John, while you rightly point out "Voters end up with the government they choose, so they need to accept some responsibility", the issue is more complicated.

    For a start "voters" are not some homogenous amalgamation that in mysterious ways can act coherently to bring about a result to satisfy their will. Voters are individuals.

    A means of influencing a large number of individuals to act in the same way is to attract their attention and offer something that has widespread appeal. This is what political parties try to do. But the individual can still be faced with a tricky choice.

    Firstly, for some the Lib/Lab/Con are all as bad as one another, for instance with respect to the EU.

    Secondly, parties offer a portfolio of policies, and for all parties some policies will be appealing and others unappealing. Voters do not have the option of voting for a selected sub-set from the portfolio, but you can be sure that every party will claim that every vote case for it was in indication of support for ALL its policies. A voter may not wish their vote to be so claimed.

    Thirdly, policy is one thing, implementation is another. So even if policy is appealing the voter has to judge whether the party will fail to deliver it because of incompetence or a change of policy. For instance, those who voted for prudent economics have been disappointed as "prudence" departed.

    And no doubt there are very many other factors. Once upon a time it was suggested "vote Blair, get Brown", which some thing a jolly good prospect. In similar vein, how about "vote Brown, get Milliband "?

    Finally, a helpful suggestion. On Sunday, Andrew Marr pressed George Osborne as to what we should expect from a first Conservative budget, to be told lots of aspiration and not in the way of substance. Eventually Osborne said that until he had access to all the relevant data it is an impossible task to know precisely what needs to be done and where. This has a ring of truth, as clearly the opposition do not have the resources of the Civil Service behind them. If so, then Osborne needs to shout this point loud and clear in language the common man can understand as it seems to me to be good justification for sticking to the general. Osborne can not expect the electorate to understand this unless he explains it!

    1. A.Sedgwick
      March 2, 2010

      Ego is another factor and I fear Cameron has this approach, thinking he knows best and will not be turned even when defeat is now clearly a possibility.

  27. Colin Adkins
    March 1, 2010

    I acem afraid you are missing the point regarding the couple discussing the outcome of the forthcoming election.
    What they are saying is that despite the government being one of the wost in modern times the conservatives have, over the past few months, put up an apalling performance
    I give a few examples:
    The airbrushed Cameron poster, chosen by him despite his supposed marketing skills. If he is no good at his core discipline it rings alarm bells about his other abilities.
    Camerons performance on Geoff Randles program last week was an ideal opportunity to get the message across with one of the few sympathetic interviewers. Instead he was left looking incompetent when he was unable to respond to the £70 billion sundries in the Labour revenue paper.
    In contrast Darling, the following night came over very well although I realise that since he is now sitting in the exit lounge regardless of the election result, made it easier for him to say what he believes.
    George Osborn was as usual lamentable on the Andrew Marr programme.
    Whilst I, along with most of your correspondents, will eventually vote conservative , the floating voter has clearly picked up on these poor performances. For many people the disastrous financial situation has not hit home. Those with mortgages are probably better off. Lots of economists are saying Brown is right so you can see why things are going wrong for the tory's.
    You have more ammunition against labour than you could ever have expected you need as a party to use it and stop looking so terrified in front of the cameras.

  28. Chris
    March 1, 2010

    Re the possible Ashcroft effect on the polls, see http://iaindale.blogspot.com/ for details of Labour's apparent hypocrisy re non-doms and funding. (Details of all the Labour party possible non-doms donors plus amounts). LibDems may be worthy of closer scrutiny too. The Cons Party should be rebutting Labour and LibDems' hypocritical "outrage" sharply and redirecting attention back to Labour's door. Furthermore, the BBC, Channel 4 News etc should be capable of rigorous scrutiny of the situation and challenging Labour and the LibDems to clarify the issue.

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