There are many people, on both the Labour and Conservative side who are convinced that a Tory swingback is inevitable, and that the Tories could – despite having not led in a poll for 2 years – still end up as the largest party or even with a majority. The economy is often given as a reason – this is perfectly plausible, that is if people start to actually feel the benefits of a recovery in their pockets, rather than just being told it is happening.
However, the real Tory hope is that people will look at David Cameron, then look at Ed Miliband, and decide that the former is simply the better leader. I want to show some figures that dispute the idea that this will be a big factor at the next election.
Here are the last year of ‘net satisfaction’ ratings for Cameron and Miliband – that is to say, the number of voters happy with each leader’s performance, minus the number of voters unhappy. Cameron does have the edge over Miliband, as shown by the graph below:-
However, note that both men are in negative territory – something which wasn’t the case for Cameron in the year or so before the 2010 election – see his comparative graph against Gordon Brown from the corresponding time:
Cameron had huge leads over Brown at this corresponding time – yet it still didn’t translate into a Commons majority. Here is a third and final graph, showing Cameron’s ‘lead’ over Brown and Miliband in terms of Cameron’s rating minus the respective Labour leaders:
The point is simple – if Cameron’s huge leads over Brown didn’t manage to secure the Tories a majority in 2010 – then why would smaller leads over Miliband be a decisive factor in 2015?
One final point I would make, which slightly counters that is the following – Cameron is the incumbent this time. The fact that he still has the edge over Miliband may show that voters may be less prepared to vote in a new prime minister on negative ratings, rather than the positive ratings Cameron held in the years before the 2010 election.
My own view is that a strategy of targeting Miliband personally will backfire on the Tories – only time will tell.