Opinion: The polls show there’s all to play for

Whoever said that people tend to believe whichever opinion poll shows their party in the best light certainly hit the nail on the head. When I was younger, Liberals never believed Gallup polls because they generally showed the Tories in a better light than we wanted to believe (and they were published in a less than liberal Daily).

My personal prejudice is against YouGov polls, mainly because I went to school with its founder and the boy, as the old saying goes, is the father of the man. YouGov are now showing Ken Livingstone as highly likely to lose, which if it’s true, demonstrates that Londoners have a much better sense of humour than Boris.

There have been a flurry of polls that show the Tories to be ahead of Labour by 9%, 13%, even an incredible 16%.

And they all show the Liberal Democrats in a favourable light, with the latest from ICM showing us on 21%.

All well and good, and pretty damn clear. The problem is, I can’t find it. We are out there on the doorstep, talking to people everyday – after all, there are elections coming up. Now, if you want to find Tories, Huntingdon is as good a place as any – in fact given that until 2001 it was the safest Tory seat in the country, it’s better than almost anywhere else. Sure, we are finding lot’s of Tories, but no more than last year. Frankly, a few less.

So am I saying that I don’t believe the pollsters? Well, no. I think they are reporting pretty fairly what they are finding. The problem is I think that a large part of the electorate is up for grabs. Swinging backwards and forwards in response to what or who they heard last.

But, you see, I think that’s good news. People are listening to what we have to say on the doorstep. It’s a good time to talk to people. They no longer trust Labour, that’s evident, but they are mostly wise enough to be suspicious of a Tory party that is supposedly in favour of the environment, the NHS and public services. I think, potentially, the next few years could be very good for the Lib Dems. Sure, a lot of that is going to be down to Nick Clegg, but a lot of it could be down to ordinary members and activists, too.

My advice? Well normally I would follow the ALDC mantra and tell all my canvassers that canvassing is about voter identification – and nothing else. But this year – if you have the time (make the time!) – I’d take the trouble to talk to people and to listen. There are an awful lot of people out there at the moment looking for a political home. Let’s take the trouble to make ours warm and welcoming.

Let’s take the trouble to talk.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Polls.


  • This is true…after all it is only a relatively short amount of time since the Times was reporting Labour as being only 3% behind the Conservatives but the Budget seems to have seen a rather large swing against the government…most people now do not have a strong party affiliation which can be something of a mixed blessing…

  • Martin Land 18th Mar '08 - 8:14am

    Yes, I find this volativity incredible; it shows the continuing long term decline in the core vote of the two major parties.

  • Hmm, I’m not sure that Huntingdon is a typical seat to be counting tories in, as their level of support benefited from the high profile of their former leader and last PM.

    Since Major stood down I’m not surprised that the majority has weakened, but that does make it an ideal location to make strides and more strongly embed the option of a positive alternative.

  • “mostly wise enough to be suspicious of a Tory party that is supposedly in favour of the environment, the NHS and public services”. Would you rather that we weren’t?

  • Yes, it’s worrying. The prospect of an egomaniacal Old Etonian attention-seeker who doesn’t give a fig about London occupying City Hall is mildly alarming to say the least.

    Because he’s a funny man, we have a tendency to think he isn’t quite as nasty as his stated opinions, actions and past associations would otherwise lead us to conclude.

    Well, read his lips.

    Do Londoners really want a part-time Mayor?

    Probably not. If Livingstone had been a little less cocky, and had kept his distance from the likes of Lee Jasper and Sheikh Al-Qaradawi, he might not be in this mess.

  • Before you have a go at Boris for having gone to a private school, please try and remember where your leader was educated

  • Do they want a corrupt one…probably not. VOTE PADDOCK!

  • Tory Bobby: Has Nick Clegg ever accused black women of having “water melon” smiles?

  • Did he go to a private school?

  • Liam Pennington 18th Mar '08 - 2:59pm

    He did go to a private school. This is why we have to be very careful with our campaigning on that issue.

    No, scrap that, we have to stop running with such stupid slogans and go for the issues. But, hey, what do I know…

  • Tory Bobby: Do you endorse Boris Johnson’s claim that black women have “water melon smiles”?

  • Isn’t lucky that Bonkers Boris isn’t trying to become mayor in Liverpool, though I doubt he’d want to.

  • On poll numbers, wake me up when we reach 25%. Nationally that will be a wake up call, as it is in any individual constituency.

  • It really depends how the other parties’ figures are distributed.

    In 1983, 26% didn’t do the SDP/Liberal Alliance a whole lot of good.

  • Senseco, on a three-way split where the lowest is 25% it becomes mathematically impossible for either of the others to claim a majority (50% or over) – in three-party politics this creates a statistical barrier of immense significance.

    The 1983 figure was an exception which said more about the weakness of the other two parties (mass unemployment, loony lefties) than it did about the strengths of the third player. It did send a signal confirming long-held hopes and suspicions that there was/is real potential for an outsider to breakthough and break up an established duopoly, not merely in theory, but also in the minds of the population.

    Once any third-party consistently polls over 25% a hung parliament is almost an inevitability – it shows tactical voting is no longer decisive, as voters are rejecting a forced choice.

    As we currently float just under this figure, the prospect represents a democratic challenge to popular opinion and conventionally-held beliefs. It is a test we need the country needs to show it can pass.

  • Hmm, I also think that the initial success of the the alliance spurred the reforming tendency within Labour to get tough on Militant, so it was definitely a wake-up call to them.

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