Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ongoing Tory decline

According to the latest ICM poll, it's looking grim for the Tories. In all the key issues - health, education, taxes, the economy in general, law and order - Labour is ahead.

Depressingly for Michael Howard, Labour is also ahead on Europe - an issue which old Dracula would have hoped could be a vote-winner for the Tories. Only on immigration are Labour lagging.

We've just been watching Howard make exactly the same mistake as Hague who focused on asylum seekers/immigration and the Euro.

But the lesson that no-one on the Howard team seems to have taken on board is that while Joe Public tends to agree with the Tories on these issues, they simply don't care enough about them to return a Tory government.

The received wisdom is that the Tories haven't recovered from the loss of their reputation for economic competence after sterling fell out of the ERM. I think this is correct: a majority of voters in Britain have never really trusted them on public services but had been prepared to vote for them on the grounds that they could at least be expected to run the economy without it running aground on a sterling and/or balance of payments crisis. They clearly no longer feel like that.

The Tories - if they're to survive - have a mountain to climb: regain the "economic competence" reputation, which I would have thought impossible until a Labour government can be seen to have made a mess of the economy. The polls - and my own anecdotal evidence - also suggest that not only do people not believe the Tories could do any better on health/education etc. - they also need a fair amount of convincing that the Tories think a public sector per se is even desirable.

Electoral Calculus is currently predicting a majority of 116 seats.

I'll be less precise but say, prediction: Tories on course to get humped. I still think this election's going to be about who comes second - or, in other words, whether the Tories can survive...


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