Today’s YouGov poll has put the Conservatives 15 points behind Labour for the second time in a month. Even more startlingly for Cameron, his party sit beneath 30%. Even if this poll is an outlier, is 29% a realistic figure for the Tories in 2015?
In 1997, John Major’s Conservatives polled 30.7% of the vote in a complete electoral humiliation. They lost 11.2% from their 1992 total, almost all of it going to directly to Labour (the Lib Dems actually lost almost a million votes from the previous election). Many people assumed that this was truly the nadir- the core vote of the Tories. Are they really less popular now than they were in 1997?
There are several key differences between now and 1997. Firstly, UKIP polled at 11% in today’s YouGov. They managed 0.3% in 1997, an irrelevant speck on the electoral landscape. It would be truly incredible if UKIP received 11% of the vote in 2015- but even if they managed half of this, the Tories are in a whole world of trouble, considering that their 2010 vote was just 3.1%.
Secondly, it is suddenly possible that the Conservatives could lose votes to the Liberal Democrats as well as Labour. Social liberals/economic conservatives may not have been too impressed with David Cameron’s party on issues such as gay marriage- instead of voting for the Tories, why not the other part of the coalition? This may be less of a problem, as the Tories will be expecting to pick up votes from the Lib Dems in return- but perhaps we will get a truer reflection of which way this will go after Eastleigh.
Finally, the harsh reality for the Tories is that a section of their 1997 vote are- or will be in 2015- dead. At the risk of using subsamples- something I will discuss in a future blog- Labour consistently have huge leads in all of the age sub-sections under the age of 60. It is possible that they simply are not picking up enough new voters to replace the lost ones.
Let’s also remember that Labour polled 29% in the 2010 general election, just five years after scoring 35.2%. The Tories vote last time round? 36.1%. Maybe 29% for the Tories in 2015 isn’t as unlikely as it sounds. The real issue will be how well Labour can capitalise on this.