Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Labour Should Not Gamble on the Strength of this Poll

Politics is so astonishing right now with polls in The Guardian today showing Labour narrowing the lead held by the Conservatives. This comes only just over a fortnight after ther same company showed the public spurning the PBR and extending the Tory lead. Labour are now only five points behind compared with 15 on 29th November.

Further, Brown is doing well in his ratings on handling the crisis and honesty(!) though Cameron leads on 'most potential as prime minister'. Lib Dems are doing better too on 19 points, up from the low teens so Clegg will be relieved there is unlikely to be any calls for Vince Cable to ntake over just yet.

But should Gordon go for bust and call a February election? I note Derek Draper in The Guardian predicts Labour's poll standing will improve which will increase pressure on Brown to do the snap election before unemployment gets really bad and before the economy has demonstrated if his medicine is going to work or not. I suspect we are already in that closed circle of speculation for the next feww weeks but I am of the same opinion as Martin Kettle that such a gamble would be a disaster.

He points out that Labour would be unlikely to 'win' such a contest and a hung parliament would likely result in the place of the majority Brown has to command for over a year yet. He also notes the dire record of February as a month Gladstone(1874), Attlee(1950) and Heath(1974) all found was not condusive to victory. I would add that the polls do not seem reliable right now and are highly volatile as the swing over the last two weeks demonstrate.

One point Kettle might have made and didn't is that February polls are usually crisis polls, to wit;

Gladstone 1874 - party collapsing under internal pressures between its whig and Radical wings and his leadership under serious threat (he had to resign the following year)

Attlee 1950 - severe economic difficulties caused by post-war restructuring (especially higher-than-expected bills for the NHS) and an abrupt 31% devaluation of the pound that caused colossal inflation

Heath 1974 - a miners strike that had wrecked the economy and made the government look weak(er) and (more) ineffectual (add words in brackets if appropriate)

Do you think there's a serious risk that a February election might spark a sense of crisis in the public (i.e. "what do they know about how bad things will be that we don't?") and further destabilize the economy? Because that would hardly play to Labour's advantage!
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