Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The speech that David Cameron made today was the speech of a man who is confident of victory......but is it even possible?

David Cameron made a very powerful speech today..but will it be enough?

The speech made today by the Prime Minister at the Conservative Party Conference was the speech of a man who thinks he is destined for electoral success. It was bold, passionate, and powerful. But how will this speech change the electoral landscape, and is it really possible for the Tory Party to win a majority in 2015?

First of all, let us examine the speech and the policy pledges made. David Cameron has pledged to protect the National Health Service- This is a repeat of his policy from the 2010 General Election, and is designed to calm fears from many swing voters about how the Tories would manage the NHS. It is also intended to neutralise Ed Miliband and the Labour Party lead over the NHS, as Ed Miliband has decided that Labour would make the NHS the main issue of the election campaign. Secondly, the tax-cutting policy. This has very broad appeal across the electorate, and in particular for the Middle English voters that have gone to Labour since 2010 or have become undecided. David Cameron is hoping to win back these voters so that the Tories can get back up to 34/35% of the vote.

First of all, I have some good news for the Prime Minister. Twice as many people trust the Tories with the deficit than they do Labour. David Cameron has an overwhelming lead over Ed Miliband as to who would be the best Prime Minister (Although the voters prefer a Labour Government to a Tory Government.) The Government is also seen as being more competent than Labour in general, although many still see the Tories as being the "Nasty Party."

However, this is where the bad news comes in. If the Tories want to win a majority, they have to go beyond what they did at the last election. They have to open up an 8 or 9 point lead over the Labour Party. This is a very difficult task, for many reasons. Firstly, because so many Tory voters have defected to UKIP, the task for David Cameron has become extremely difficult. He needs to win all of these voters back to have any chance of taking the lead- and at the moment, it looks very unlikely. Perhaps some may defect back to the Tories, but some will stay with UKIP at the General Election, as indicated by pollling. Another problem that David Cameron has is the current electoral strength of the Labour Party. To stop losing seats to Labour and start gaining them, the Tories need to have a lead of 8%. Currently, they trail by 5%, having lost significant numbers of votes to UKIP.. A turnaround of 12 points would be required just for the Tories to acheive a favourable hung parliament, and a swing of at least 12.5 or 13 points would be needed for David Cameron to get his majority. At this stage, this looks quite unlikely. Such a swing has happened in occasions throughout history-possibly most notably in 1992, but such a turnaround looks incredibly unlikely at this stage, and especially in a 4 party system, and at least half of the swing in 1992 could be attributed to pollster error.

What the Tories hope is that Ed Miliband's poor personal ratings will catch up with him at some point. There is a possibility that this could happen, but could it happens on a scale large enough for David Cameron to win a majority? I doubt it. Firstly, because Gordon Brown was incredibly unpopular too amongst core Labour voters-and they turned up to vote for him in 2010. These voters are not going anywhere. Secondly, the Lib Dem defectors to Labour have a much higher opinion of Ed Miliband than other Labour voters or the electorate in general. This is the major reason as to why Labour remain in the lead-a significant % of Lib Dem 2010 voters say they will vote Labour in 2015.

As long as this group stays as loyal to Labour as it is now, Labour will remain above 35%, and it will be impossible for the Tories to either acheive a hung parliament or to win the election. Another major issue concerns UKIP voters. The assumption from the Tories is that they are simply "Tories on holiday" and that they will return at the General Election. This assumption simply does not hold up to scrutiny. Lord Ashcroft polling found that UKIP voters preferred Cameron by only 27-23, and that 29% of UKIP voters would actually like a Labour Government, more than the number of those who said they would prefer a Tory Government! David Cameron needs to make sure that he reaches out to these voters and tries to win them over, rather than simply assuming that they will "Come home" to their former party.

The Tories also often claim that the electoral system is "Biased" against them. At first glance, it may seem that it is so. Labour can win a majority (Theoretically) with a 1% deficit, whilst the Tories can win a majority only if they are at least 8.5% ahead. However, taking a closer look at the electoral dynamic, it is clear that this is not the case. There are three major reasons as to why Labour's vote is so more efficient than that of the Tories. Firstly, because Labour Party voters tend not to turn out where it doesn't matter (In safe seats) but turn up in much larger numbers in close contests in marginal seats. This is why, despite trailing by 0.5% in England, Tony Blair managed to win 82 more seats than the Tories in the 2005 General Election. The second reason is because the Tory vote is very heavily concentrated in areas where they are already strong-in this case in safe seats in the South-West and South-East of England. There is a saying: When Labour win a seat, they win it by 1000 votes, when the Tories win a seat, they win it by 10,000. The Conservative Party has failed to broaden its appeal in Scotland, the North of England, and Wales, and must seek to do this if it wishes to win a majority next time. The 3rd major reason is tactical voting. Most current Liberal Democrat seats tend to be seats that they had won from the Tories in the 1997 Tony Blair landslide, through massive anti-Tory tactical voting. In areas where the contest is between Liberal Democrats and the Tories, Labour voters in the past have tended to switch to the Lib Dems to "Keep the Tories out." There is some evidence that as a result of the Lib Dem-Tory coalition, that this tactical alliance may be weakening, which would help the Tory Party-but what this means for next year is yet to be seen.
Due to the factors outlined above, it is my conclusion that David Cameron faces a very long and hard road ahead. All of the pollsters and bookies have Ed Miliband as the favourite to become PM, and many Tories themselves have admitted that it is unlikely that they will win next year. The next 8 months shall be the most crucial in this parliament-let's see what the people decide in May next year.

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