Lord Ashcroft (ex-Tory party chairman, tax dodger) has published Project Blueprint (PDF), a paper on what the Tories need to do to win a majority at the 2015 election (assuming that’s when it will take place — which I’m sure it will).
For me it constitutes the most accurate analysis of the current electoral landscape. If you can’t read the whole thing, Sunny Hundal has written an excellent summary. It steers clear of the navel gazing and doom mongering of lots of left leaning commentators.
The good news for Labour is that Ashdown has identified a natural centre left majority based on a good core Labour turnout and defections from left–leaning Lib Dems (which is basically what happened in the recent local elections). It’d give Ed Miliband close to 40 per cent of the vote without needing to get out of bed.
That’s not to say it’s all done and dusted. Getting the core vote out is more difficult for Labour than the Conservatives. If you take a look through the Ipswich borough council election results you’ll see that all the Tory wins were on a turnout of more than 40%. Few of the Labour wins gained more than 40% (excepting a bumper Rushmere turnout).
It seems clear that the election will be won on the middle ground. Ashcroft’s analysis of where the Tories do well strikes me as accurate: immigration and welfare reform are traditionally Conservative ‘wins’. But I don’t feel these will be the main issues:
- If the economy continues to flatline (or head into full blown recession) the argument about spending cuts will radically change
- Ihe spending cuts will only begin to take effect this year. An abstract notion of cuts may be popular; real cuts less so
- The Tories have made tactical erorrs over areas such as the NHS, where they’re not popular anyway
- Voters don’t like incompetence. What may originally seem an open, collegiate approach to government runs the risk of appearing indecisive and chaotic. Just this week Ken Clarke and Liam Fox have made huge blunders or broken ranks — and this is nothing to do with coalition.
Whatever the current situation, as a Labour supporter I’m relatively optimistic about the future.