Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Midweek Thoughts...

Conflicting poll data for the Liberal Democrats with a poor 14% with MORI balanced against a solid 20% with ICM. Now, long-term readers of this blog will know I'm a big fan of ICM - it's the one poll that has stood the test of time. That said, it has been known to throw out the occasional rogue or outlier figure for one or more of the parties.

The current split of 42-30-20 looks and feels about right however.

David Laws provoked a slightly testy response from Mike Smithson following some comments on the Daily Politics programme on BBC2 this lunchtime. This drew in LibDem Voice but it's all a bit handbags at dawn to be honest. Laws is a politician who will spin the poll data to his advantage while Mike, on occasions, puts too much emphasis on the strict interpretation of polling data.

It's always easiest to praise the good polls and knock the bad ones but I stick with ICM through thick and thin. IF the Liberal Democrats can move back to 22-24%, it will represent a strong fightback from the lowpoints of this Parliament but that's a big if.

The Conservatives are in the driving seat and enjoying the kind of numbers that will win them a comfortable majority and there is an air of arrogant cockiness growing among of their newer activists. The more experienced and thoughtful Tories know the deal isn't sealed until the votes are in the ballot box and that still requires a solid and gaffe-free campaign.

The problem is that the Conservatives are coming under pressure now to say just what they will do to turn the economy round and in particular what they will do about the runaway growth in public debt. The Conservatives are always happy to talk tough about spending though David Cameron was at pains the other day to re-iterate the tired old Conservative mantra that the savings could be funded purely from reducing Government waste and that frontline services would be safeguarded.

He didn't sound very convincing to be honest and I suspect the Conservatives will hope a few sweet words and smiles will be enough to get the votes in and the seats won before the real pain is inflicted.

The other side of the coin is the Tory achilles heel, tax. Cameron is as much a taxcutter as any Conservative but he knows, as I know, that taxes are going to have to rise to deal with the disastrous Labour legacy of the public finances. He may be able to sell cuddly unspecified tax rises to the activists but I suspect some of the voters won't be so trusting. There is a strong appetite for tax cuts out there but Cameron doesn't seem to want to satisfy it.

It's extremely unlikely but I keep thinking about 1992 when a confident Opposition faced a long-serving Government during a recession. The Opposition's economic policies were its undoing as the electorate wasn't convinced that the sums added up and they chose to stuck with the party that had taken them into recession.

David Cameron will have learnt from the Neil Kinnock experience and there will be no triumphalism from him. However, making the sums add up is another matter.

No comments: