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.