A few opinion polls are due in the next few days and they’ll give us a clue as to whether the Conservatives have done enough to "stave off the election" – in the words of this morning’s Telegraph. What the headlines won’t tellus is the position in the marginals. According to The Independent, Labour polling suggests that the situation in target seats is "patchy and extremely tight".
Looking at today’s Sun and Mail there appears a real willingness to give the Tories a chance. ‘At last voters have a genuine choice’ is the headline on the main Mail leader. The Sun says ‘Job done’ after it had begun the week wondering if the Conservatives were capable of getting back into the game.
I still do not believe that we can win an autumn election if winning means that David Cameron enters 10 Downing Street with a working majority (although I’d love to be proved wrong!). I do believe that it’s possible that Gordon Brown can be deprived of his majority and that would be humiliating for the Prime Minister.
Gordon Brown is weakened if he achieves any result less than the 66 majority achieved by Tony Blair in 2005. That thought will prey on him heavily as he makes his election decision.
Professor John Curtice in The Independent identifies a number of factors that could make it hard for Brown to claim he ‘wins’ an autumn poll:
- After boundary changes Labour’s majority is down to 48 – so he needs to win seats in order to match Blair’s 2005 majority.
- Opinion polls have overstated Labour’s lead in previous elections
although their 2005 prediction of a 5% lead was only slightly greater
than Labour’s actual 3% lead.
- The LibDems and Tories who beat Labour in 2005 have been working
their seats hard and they won’t necessarily be vulnerable to simple,
uniform swings. They’ll have their own incumbency boost and they’ll
often not be facing a Labour opponent who has used their MP status to