Sunday, February 15, 2009

Back to the early 1980's?

We've now had three opinion polls from ICM, Populus and Comres showing a drop in the Labour vote and a surge for the LibDems, with the Tories either staying the same or dropping a little, but gaining a massive lead by default as the centre-left vote is split. Three polls showing the same thing makes a trend.

I got shouted down a week ago on Labourhome, when I wrote that what was causing the shift to the LibDems was part of the Labour coalition feeling disgusted at the xenophobia displayed by the anti-European wild-cat strikes in Lincoln. Tories rushed onto the thread to say that of course the strikes were popular as "most people" hated Europe - but if that was the case why didn't the europhobic Conservatives gain in the polls? Other people on the old left of the Labour party rushed to say that "everyone" supported strikes - so why the shift away from Labour? Because the elephant in the room was that it was the internationalist europhile LibDems who gained.

To me this seems almost like a re-run of the 1980's. In 1978 we had the unions campaigning against the Callaghan government (which was made up of people on the moderate right of the Labour party), as they tried to force Labour to the left. Result: Margaret Thatcher was elected. Then in the early 80's we saw the right of the Labour party break away and form the SDP, who formed an alliance with the Liberals. And the left of Labour ran amok, with the Miners Strike, Scargill declaring his intention to "bring down the government", something that is the prerogative of the voter alone, and the "longest suicide note in history" declared Labour's intention to take Britain out of the EU. As a result, the centre and centre-left vote peeled off towards the Alliance. Ironically the only thing that saved Labour from being pushed into third place in the 1983 election was the Falklands war. Michael Foot was full-square in favour of the war to get the islands back from the fascist regime in Argentina, while David Owen for the SDP thought the war a waste of time - centrist righties peeled off back to the Tories and patriotic centre-left voters peeled off back to Labour and the Alliance were pushed back into third place.

There exists in Britain a large internationalist and europhile group who are moderate, centrist and mostly middle class, and who have decided every single general election since the 1970's. They don't like xenophobia and they don't like extremism (strikes make them nervous). Forget those on the Tory right or old Labour left who claim that Brits hate Europe. Their opinions don't deliver elections, only those of the europhile middle do.

It was New Labour's genius to court this group, becoming pro-European and centrist in order to do so. Governing as New Labour meant amongst other things facing down the RMT's strike demand for a 40% payrise in the early part of this decade and kicking the RMT out of the Labour party. But governing as New labour also meant the ability to deliver things that helped the poorest of society - the minimum wage, support for parents, Sure Start, improved healthcare, better rights for part-time and temporary workers - something Old Labour signally failed to deliver as they failed to win elections.

Unfortunately the turmoil in the global economy has persuaded some in the unions that it is OK to go back to 1983. They are wrong. The outcome of this turmoil will not be a willingness to tolerate xenophobia or strikes but such things as separating out investment banking from retail banking and increasing banking capitalisation requirements - technical things, not ideological things.

Labour only wins elections when the right of the party (which equals the centre and centre-left of the entire political spectrum) is in the ascendant. Move too far away from the centre and our vote fractures. In the 2001 to 2005 period Blair moved too far away from the centre in the rightwards direction on war and we saw part of our coalition move to the LibDems - it was only because Howard's Tories were even further to the right that we managed to hang on to power. We have now moved back to the centre on war, with the Brown government distinctly unenthusiatic about starting wars anywhere, but the new danger is people wishing to drag us leftwards on economics and Europe. But we can only win from the centre, this has been the case for decades now. Someone needs to have a word with Unite and co to point out the facts of electoral life to them.


Anonymous said...

Hmm, where to start.

I sincerely doubt that Foot's views on the Falklands did much, if you voted based on the war you voted Tory, Labour and Liberal/SDP wouldn't have that as a factor. Labour received 27.6% of the vote. Pretty much it's hard core. Patriotic voters would have weighted Foot's Falklands stance with his anti-NATO unilateralist posture and found him wanting. What would have pushed them into third place in 1987 would have been the Liberal/SDP Alliance winning a similar number of seats, but the FPTP electoral system saw they wouldn't get anywhere near that.

I think you are looking at the wrong group. The Independent readers who seem to be your "internationalist and Europhile group who are moderate, centrist and mostly middle class" are not those who election specialists who study such things cosider the key group. It is the social group C2 (lower middle class/higher end working class) - The Gavin and Staceys of the World. These are the ones who turn elections.

I think you would identify yourself in the "internationalist and Europhile group who are moderate, centrist and mostly middle class". I fear you are putting too much strength in what you want t see, rather then what is. A wholly understandable position given that at present things look so black for your precious Labour Party.

Anonymous said...

I suspect it is far more prosaic, and that the third party are benefiting from the usual midterm protest vote. Clegg is better established than he was when people were last very peed off with Labour and Brown a few months back.

Most people respond to opinion polls between Parliamentary general Elections as though they either have indigestion or a pleasant night in with their partner.

It is encouraging, of course, that people are not taking to Cameron and Osbourne despite their reshuffle with Clarke and Hague seemingly more upfront in their councils and PR.

I have been teasing some of the Dully Teles on what they some times call the Labourgraph when we are "busy" there:

As the late Prof. Robt Mackenzie, the great psephologist pointed out in his seminal tome "British political parties" the UK electorate has been extremely volatile since the Second World War. I am happy to listen to Dully Tory turkeys counting the days to Christmas (well Nov 2009 / Mar 2010), albeit that some are deficient in their "arithmatic."

It is also clear, as when Mrs Thatcher trailed in the polls midterm, that public opinion polls are used as byelections usually are, to register a protest, a bit of electoral indigestion as it were.

It also remains true that a Parliamentary General Election is quite unlike any other election. Bullingdons, spoilt old Etonian wannabes with no experience of the real world, or hardened Labour ministers, who delivered a record breaking 11 years of economic growth, in the face of the 2001 USA recession and helped our country to many improvements in the standards of the NHS and other aspects of British welfare?

Anonymous said...

Snowflake wrote: "There exists in Britain a large internationalist and europhile group who are moderate, centrist and mostly middle class, and who have decided every single general election since the 1970's."

Of course any "group" which is larger than the majority in key marginals can be said to have done this.

I should think Hornsey in N London contains a fair selection of these liberal tolerant people.

In the Mayoral and London Authority elections last year it became apparent that such friendly halflings are far outnumbered by angry motorists, which is why Ken lost.

Anonymous said...

The latest Ipso-Mori poll undermines your argument that the decline in Labour's support is down to union militancy demonstrated at the Lindsey refinery.

Mori has the rise in Lib Dem support predating the strikes and has stopped sicne they started

16/02/2009 48 28 17
18/01/2009 44 30 17
14/12/2008 39 35 15
11/12/2008 41 36 11

I'm sorry, but you are going to have to accept that Labour's slide in the polls is down to its poor economic performance and not down to any left wing bogie men.

Anonymous said...

Not looking clever for Brown now - would Harriet have a better chance at the election ?

snowflake5 said...

DevonChap - three polls showing a similar thing make a trend. One poll (ipsos-mori) showing something different does not. (You could make the same argument against the YouGov poll which showed Labour doing not badly too).

At least I'm being realistic about what is happening to Labour, by picking three polls showing a trend against us. You arn't being realistic about what is going on with the Tories if you ignore three polls showing a trend from lb to LibDems and ignore one poll showing a shift from Con to LibDem (YouGov) and then latch on to the single poll that confirms your prejudices. Ipsos-Mori doesn't even have a great track record of forecasting (they've messed up on recent elections).

Anonymous said...

(Reposted from labourHome where I commented on your arguement)

Your thesis was that centre left middle classes move from Labour to the LibDems due to the Lindsay dispute. You see a correlation and from that draw causation (a classic mistake).

The Ipso-MORI figures show that swing from Labour to the LibDems happened before the strikes. Now let's look at the time series from the other pollsters too

Survey Date CON LAB LDEM
2009-02-13 44 32 14
2009-01-29 43 32 16
2009-01-16 45 32 14
2009-01-08 41 34 15
2008-12-18 42 35 14
2008-12-12 41 35 15
2008-11-25 40 36 14


Survey Date CON LAB LDEM
2009-02-05 40 28 22
2009-01-25 44 32 16
2008-12-14 38 33 19
2008-11-26 45 30 18

Survey Date CON LAB LDEM
2009-02-08 42 28 18
2009-01-11 43 33 15
2008-12-07 39 35 17
2008-11-09 41 35 16

Survey Date CON LAB LDEM
2009-02-12 41 25 22
2009-01-23 43 28 16
2009-01-15 41 32 15
2008-12-21 39 34 16
2008-12-11 37 36 14
2008-11-30 37 36 17
2008-11-13 43 32 12

SurveyDate CON LAB LIB
15/02/2009 48 28 17
18/01/2009 44 30 17
14/12/2008 39 35 15
11/12/2008 41 36 11

Now you can see that all apart from YouGov had the LibDems on high teens in November/early December. Then they fell back with ICM, Populus and ComRes before jumping back up. So it looks more that late December/early January was a dip to the LibDems rather than a post Lindsay gain. We are back to where we were in terms of LibDem support. Only ICM and ComRes have a jump for the LibDems in February outside their 3% margin of error. 2 out of 5 does not make a trend.

You read a lot into polls but clearly don't do your homework. Your fox is well and truely shot.

Anonymous said...

'In the Mayoral and London Authority elections last year it became apparent that such friendly halflings are far outnumbered by angry motorists, which is why Ken lost.'

You are clearly completely out of touch with what happeneed in London last year,if you really believe there are enough 4 x4 & Porsche drivers in central London to defeat Livingstone.
Livingstone lost because:

1)Corruption in the LDA was exposed.
2) We were tired of his annual inflation busting GLA tax rises year after year.
3)We were tired of his grandstanding with known terrorist supporters.
4)His anti semetism.
5)Massive waste.
6)Jobs for his cronies irrespective of ability or qualifications.
7)Alienated the black cab vote with his double tests & dumbing down of 'the knowledge' proposals.

And the Tories put up a popular charismatic candidate that is proving to be very successful and popular with all sides of the political spectrum.