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January 23, 2011

Labour heading for 20-point lead in the polls.

There’s an engaging article in the Telegraph today, by Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome fame, outlining the five biggest challenges that Cameron’s new director of communications will have to deal with. The point that interested me most was that Tim expects Labour to have a 20-point lead in the polls by Christmas. I couldn’t agree more. It’s been my opinion for a while now. Taking into account people’s instinctive unease at the cuts programme, the job losses and individual ‘heart-rending’ stories like the one last week of the mother who no longer felt able to care for her disabled daughter, I expect the polls to look absolutely disastrous for the Tories and the Lib Dems by Christmas. To say that it could be limited to a 20-point Labour lead might even be optimistic. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see something like a 54-26-10 split by the end of the year – that, after all, is the kind of polling regularly seen in the 1997-2001 parliament, the last time the Tories were as unpopular as we’ll be within a year.

That prompts four thoughts. Firstly, it takes courage for a government to continue with something that is so badly damaging them in the polls. Cameron, Clegg et al must hold their nerve and play the long game. If they sort the deficit out by 2014, I’m still confident that the electorate will thank them in 2015. Secondly, I’m actually surprised that Labour aren’t already doing better in the polls. Their supporters crow madly whenever a poll shows them to be 4 or 5 points clear, but is that actually a good return for an opposition with a ‘fresh, new leader’ and a government carrying out historically big cuts to the public sector? That ties into the third point, which is that Ed Miliband faces a make-or-break year – if he’s anything other than miles clear in the polls by Christmas, he’ll be facing questions about his leadership. Lastly, these predicted figures show how hard it’ll be for Boris to win in May next year. He needs to continually show himself to be independent from, and not intrinsically connected to, the government, or he’ll struggle to avoid a voter backlash.

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