By Tim Montgomerie
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You may have been away for Christmas and the New Year or simply switched off. You may therefore have missed Paul Goodman's four reasons why Cameron couldn't win a majority at the next election. I begged to differ. So did Grant Shapps. Most interesting, however, were the responses of some on the Left. Many on the Left simply do not share the Right's pessimism about Cameron's chances.
To cheer those readers who return 'to school' today here are a few of their arguments…
At Labour Uncut Atul Hatwal focuses on Labour's GROWING disadvantage on economic trust. At Labour Uncut he wrote (my emphasis):
"Labour is 11% behind on economic competence and no opposition has gone on to win the next election when trailing the government on the economy, after two and half years… We are now further behind the Tories on the economy than at the time of the last election, and that’s after all of the pain of the past two and a half years. Noone in any position of leadership within the party has proffered any type of explanation or plan to turn this deficit around, other than to keep on doing what has palpably failed since 2010."
For Dan Hodges Labour isn't polling any where near as well as it should be polling at this stage of a very tricky parliament. Given, he writes, "the omnishambolic year the Government has just had, and the fact the country is teetering on the edge of a triple-dip recession with real term incomes stagnating, Labour still can only just scrape a double-digit lead and still cannot consistently break 40%." Hodges continues by arguing that Labour's relatively small lead is flattered by an unnaturally inflated UKIP vote and a temporarily depressed LibDem vote. He concludes: "Bring the Ukip and Lib Dem support into realistic alignment, and Labour’s lead vanishes instantly. Ed Miliband’s current poll lead is an illusion."
Labour will have to divert significant and scarce resources to retaining support in Scotland. There is, Hodges (again) writes, "a prospect of "ticket splitting", with Scottish voters demonstrating their commitment to the Union by voting “No” in the referendum, but asserting their Scottishness by voting SNP in the Westminster elections." "Either way," he continues, "Labour will be forced to deploy money and resources in fighting a referendum that it simply cannot afford to lose."
Mike Smithson notes that the huge number of new Tory MPs will have a substantial "incumbency" boost. More here. The failure of the boundary review will actually maximise what is known as the 'double incumbency benefit'. New MPs not only gain from developing their own loyal army of constituents that (hopefully) have reason to be grateful for their help but also may have ousted an opponent who had their own loyal voters who therefore inflated the Lab/LD etc vote. With approximately half-amillion pounds to spend between now and the election (a rough totting up of salary and expenses at an MP's disposals) incumbent Tory MPs have a big advantage over their opponents.
Peter Kellner predicts that Labour's lead will be salami-sliced away with a promise by Cameron to hold an EU referendum, a warning that Labour would have to raise income tax by 5p in the pound in order to pay for higher benefits and a relentless tabloid campaign against Labour. Read his crystal ball gazing here.
And finally John Rentoul expects Cameron to manage unexpected events more expertly than Labour. He is less sure of the DC's advantage than twelve months ago because of "the Prime Minister's misjudgements last year" but still thinks "Cameron is better equipped to deal with the challenges of the unexpected than Miliband". Rentoul's overall conclusion is that the next election is too hard to call. Whatever the probabilities each of us may attach to different outcomes (this is what William Hill thinks) that openness makes sense with two-and-a-half big years still to go.