By Harry Phibbs
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There is an odd mood of defeatism in both the main political parties about their propsects at the next General Election. They can't both be right. Somebody has to win.
Here are ten factors which suggest a Conservative victory is the most likely outcome.
1. The issues.
Public opinion is going in the opposite direction to the Labour Party. The recent Joseph Rowntree study on attitudes to welfare is very much in line with other evidence.
I am told that a focus group "mood board", undertaken at the last election, asked what the Labour Party stood for. The group produced an image of a fat, lazy welfare recipient in a vest lounging on a sofa. If anything that perception of the Party will have deepened.
On other issues Conservatives are closer to the public than Labour. At the next election the Conservatives will be able to offer their own manifesto with tough popular policies – getting rid of the Human Rights Act for example – rather than being constrained by the coalition government. However there will also be plenty of achievements to point to.
2. Ed Miliband
YouGov has Ed Miliband's approval rating on -35%. That is a worse rating than David Cameron. It is also worse than Gordon Brown's rating before the last election. The party leader is of great importance in terms of a General Election result. Where is the evidence that Mr Miliband will be regarded as a more credible figure than Mr Brown?
3. The media.
The media – not only the BBC but the Conservative minded newspapers – have been highly critical of the Government. As we move closer to the next election it is inevitable that Labour will come under greater scrutiny and that they will struggle to respond convincingly .
4. Free schools
I wrote about this earlier today. Parents, or potential parents, of pupils at free schools are becoming more numerous. Labour's hostility to free schools will not be lost on them.
5. More people working in the private sector, fewer in the public sector.
The "client state" was a great advantage to Labour in 2010. Private sector workers are more likely to vote Conservative than public sector workers – a lot more. So far there are a million more private sector jobs since the change of Government.
6. Fewer people on welfare.
Those on the various out of work welfare benefits are more likely to vote Labour than those working. There are already fewer people on welfare than at the last election.
7. More shareholders.
As Margaret Thatcher discovered, wider share ownership boosts the Conservative vote. Privatisation of RBS and Lloyds offers a chance for a new generation of Sids – especially if the more radical options are considered. The Royal Mail privatisation gives Postman Pat the chance to join Sid in the new generation of popular capitalists.
8. UKIP voters switching to Conservatives.
Increasingly, UKIP are more of a problem for Labour than the Conservatives. This is because while UKIP have taken more support from the Conservatives than Labour, the Conservatives are best placed to win over UKIP voters. What credible message does the Labour Party have to those who voted Labour in 2010 but are now supporting UKIP? Labour's opposition to an in/out EU referendum is one barrier but Labour's general policy direction and tone, especially welfare, also alienates them.
A sitting MP has the benefit of building up a personal vote. Often this is worth between 1,000-2,000 votes. Labour's majority in vote share fell significantly in the 2001 General election compared to 1997 but their majority of seats was practically the same. This was because they had the benefit of incumbency from all their new MPs elected in 1997 and so did especially well in those crucial seats.
Those Conservative MPs elected in 2010 for the first time will now have that advantage.
10. Lynton Crosby.
The Conservatives campaign in 2010 did not maximise their potential vote. The message was confused. George Osborne was trying to run the campaign while also being Shadow Chancellor – thus doing both jobs badly.
Whatever views one may have about Mr Crosby and his strategy, it is apparent that the Labour Party fear him. It is also evident that Mr Crosby has a record of success – not least in Boris Johnson's 2008 and 2012 victories. The next Conservative election campaign is likely to be better organised and more coherent that the last one.