Is Labour prepared for a second Cameron government?

by David Talbot

Such optimism greeted the unveiling of Labour’s grand general election strategy some two years ago. The party would target 106 key seats using techniques borrowed from Barack Obama’s successful presidential campaigns in a “realistic” strategy to install the Labour leader in Downing Street with a majority of 60, the then election supremo Tom Watson announced. Somewhat naturally, given Westminster’s seemingly never-ending penchant for expensive Americans, a thousand community organisers were to be funded simultaneously in the key seats trained by the now adrift Arnie Graf.

The general election had duly begun, we were told, and Labour was set to be a one-term opposition; a feat achieved just once in forty years. According to Watson’s detailed analysis, Labour needed a national swing of just under two per cent to be the largest party at the next election. An average swing of over five per cent would deliver Labour a Commons majority of 20 seats and over six per cent a 60-seat majority. Such was the bullishness of the assessment that all the seats announced were offensive, and such was the hyperbole attached that talk of an 80-seat majority was passed in the same breath. Labour will win, and “win well” Watson confidently asserted.

Such a shame. Three months out from the general election few in the Labour fold would publically repeat such wild talk. But at the time it was easy enough to see where the confidence had come from; the “ominshambles” Budget had handed Labour a large and sustained lead – with the party regularly breaching and holding the magical forty per cent barrier.

Since those days of double-digit Labour leads the traditional binary nature of British politics has, of course, become fragmented. The other truism is that the Labour lead has steadily declined from the low forties of the ominshamble-era to the low thirties today. The reasons are myriad but have been consistent across this Parliament. Cameron continues to be an electoral asset to the Conservative party; on the ‘forced choice’ question of a Cameron-led or Miliband-led government, the Conservative leader pulls ahead by five per cent points – well ahead of his party’s traditional polling. And as John Rentoul, from his eagle-eyed perch, summarised at the weekend, forty per cent of voters think likely Cameron will return as Prime Minister, forty three per cent believe him to be better at managing the economy, thirty six per cent  prefer him to handle immigration and forty two per cent believe he has “the qualities needed in a leader”. Only on the NHS, Labour’s preferred electoral ground, does Cameron cede to Miliband. And even on tax avoidance and evasion, the fulcrum of the Labour party’s attack last week, the two party leaders are in effect tied.

In Scotland, the Labour party is set to be routed by the SNP. The scale of the loss is the only detail pending. No matter the gains in England and Wales, if Labour loses in its own backyard it will put Cameron in the driving seat post the 7th May. The basic truth is clear; Miliband cannot become Prime Minister unless Labour, and by extension his arch-foe, Jim Murphy, claws back hundreds of thousands of votes from the SNP. This analysis tallies with private Conservative confidence, as recently detailed by Isabel Hardman – and even a striking degree of arrogance that the next election is all but won.

Whilst penning this article the monthly Guardian poll landed; ‘Tories up six points in latest ICM poll’ screamed the headline. That it neatly correlated with what was written thus far, one could be excused for being rather pleased with my new-found soothsaying ability. But it drew little comfort, for Cameron, in particular, on which so much of the current Conservative popularity is built, has been a dismal Prime Minister. He represents no great intellectual thought, no great movement, no breaking of the political mould. He has failed on his key domestic pledge of this Parliament and isolated Britain abroad.

The public ought to be on the verge of offering a bitter repudiation of the Prime Minister and his party. But, seemingly, they are not. The Conservatives and Cameron are within touching distant of at least winning the most seats. The final machinations of the election’s outcome are beyond even the wisest, but one this is clear; Labour must now hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. Two years ago many within the Labour party would now not believe it, but Miliband’s prospects of becoming Prime Minister are fading – and fast.

David Talbot is a political consultant

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18 Responses to “Is Labour prepared for a second Cameron government?”

  1. John P Reid says:

    It’s the shock, that labour intalectually may have some answers to the financial situation, we have suggested Blue labour and charities as our answer to the big society, local Co-ops to help with funding on charity situations. Plus we have things that will help groups, who unlike the ethnic minorities or gay people we felt we helped, but didn’t in the 80’s, we ate interested in young mums, or those who’ve been using their own families wealth to, help worh their elderly parents financial states ,but gay people or ethnic minorities were interested in how much their bills were,as such, we may have great ideas, for helping people with their lives on small the he, but we’re not dealing with the big issues,

    It’s also the fact that we will have a civil war after the election notbecause we feel the public were wrong for not voting for us, but that as much as we didn’t swing rqdically too rhe left, as we did in 51,79 etc, that we didn’t also fail to accept, the electorate, have swung go against us too, in 1951’1979 we opposed all Tory cuts, this time we’ve abstained on most of their policies,

    After the next election, their maybe suggestions from Ed miliband fans and Len Mcklusky, we lost as it wasn’t left wing enough, but they’ll be in a minority, if we lose, I hope Ed will stay on, if he doesn’t,his successor, will have to say that we lost, as we haven’t accepted a swing in the consensus, that the public are prepared to see savage, cuts, even if it sees a drop, in the living standards, as such, there are Blue Labour or, right wing old labour people who could take over, but the other disconnection, between ,working class labour voters and the party, is the party doesn’t see they’re different to the public, as such the likes of Mwyropolitan elites, like Chuka Ummuna, aren’t the future

  2. Robert says:

    Labour was always very unlikely to get a majority this year and I am suprised that Miliband still has a chance of being Prime Minister. It is all still to play for and David should stop being so negative.

  3. Dave Roberts. says:

    A good article until the last paragraph but one which is rubbish and totally contradicts everything which has gone before. Who is David Talbot?

  4. Madasafish says:

    He represents no great intellectual thought, no great movement, no breaking of the political mould. He has failed on his key domestic pledge of this Parliament and isolated Britain abroad.

    Leader of a Coalition has restrictions placed on him. He cannot do anything without LD support.

    Remind me what Tony Blair with huge majorities did to break the mould and how he used our overseas alliances to wage war with resulting abject failure.?

    And does anyone think that Universal Credit is not a significant change?

  5. ex Labour says:

    “The public ought to be on the verge of offering a bitter repudiation of the Prime Minister and his party”.

    You offer comment but no analysis on why this is the case. Sure every poll puts Cameron in front of Miliband and has done for years, but what are the reasons ?

    Is it Milibands weirdness ?

    Is it his hypocrisy ?

    Is it Labour’s opportunistic brand of politics ?

    Is it the lack of critical thinking applied to policies ?

    Is it the “tax meme” thats wearing thin ?

    Is it because unemployment is falling fast ?

    Is it because then economy is much stronger ?

    Is it because of the labour failure to tackle immigration and other issues ?

    Is it because Labour are wedded to the EU and the public are not ?

    Is it because Labour are snuggling up to the SNP to save their skin ?

    Is it because UKIP are firmly entrenched in Labour heartlands ?

    Is it because he is beholden to the McLusky unionites ?

    Is it because Labour’s own supporters call him a Hampstead Marxist ?

    I think we should be told.

    Answers on a postcard to E Miliband.

  6. Mark Stockwell says:

    “He (Cameron) represents no great intellectual thought, no great movement, no breaking of the political mould.”

    It’s not immediately obvious to me why this would make him a “dismal” PM. Or even at all unusual.

  7. Rob A says:


  8. paul barker says:

    Parts of The Labour Movement do seem to be preparing for civil war on May 8th but have you considered a “velvet divorce”instead ? Perhaps if you simply accepted that Labour is in fact 3 or 4 Parties forced into an uncomfortable marriage you could split up without rancour ? Its not as if there are any assets to fight over.

  9. Chris James says:

    And what does David Talbot think of today’s opinion poll which shows Labour seven points ahead?

  10. Dave Roberts. says:

    I can’t see how that split would come about Paul, any ideas? It’s an interesting proposition and I am sure some of those around the left groupescules like TUSC, People’s Assembly and the others would welcome a split. The problem is the Socialists Rapist Party would have to control everything.

  11. Andy JS says:

    One simple fact: the national debt is out of control. Maybe voters are worried about this? Just a thought.

  12. John P Reid says:

    Massaging, remind me where Blair stood Ina platform, to break the concerns, that with America, we can have a duty to get involved military, to help other countries

  13. John.P Reid says:

    Some fella, called Canarydan, has slagged us off on labour list, saying he prefers Toryhime, don’t know, don’t read it myself, apparently, labour list, is full of student types, saying things like Harriet wearing a ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ t-shirt, will win us the election, and that Blair wasn’t rhe reason labour won 3 times on the trot,but it’ll be his fault if Ed loses.

  14. Blairite says:

    David is spot on. Cameron will be Prime Minister in May and Ed Miliband will have to resign. The writing is on the wall. Forget the six party politics crap, 2015 is basically a repeat of 2010 (with the SNP and UKIP doing better than 5 years ago). Bit rich for Robert to accuse David for being ‘negative’ when he too is negative about Labour’s chances. Robert doesn’t want a Labour government, at least David does (though he realises that it ain’t happening).

  15. John P Reid says:

    Chris James,labour was 7% ahead a week before the 1992 election, I can’t believe that 2 million people swapped their vote Because Kinnock at Sheffield said ‘we’re alright’

  16. BenM says:

    It is not clear that Labour are going to lose the election.

    ICM was a clear outlier and Rentould clasps his supplementary poll responses like the proverbial drunk a lamppost.

    Your last paragraph sums it up neatly. People don’t like Ed, but Cameron’s lead in polls is all relative to Ed’s. Because Cameron has been a dire PM and would continue to get worse after 8th May if the electorate is mad enough to let him back in.

    Labour is in the game because the Tories are still more widely disliked than we are and their track record from the economy to the NHS is pretty poor. Without the Lib Dems it would have been worse still.

  17. Tafia says:

    And what does David Talbot think of today’s opinion poll which shows Labour seven points ahead?

    Probably exactly the same as the one from the more reputable pollster (ICM) two days before giving the tories a six point lead. That both are outliers.

  18. paul barker says:

    Toget a majority Labour need an absolute minimum lead of 2%; your current lead is 1% & has been falling for 2 years so I would say a victory in the usual sense is pretty unlikely. Present polling suggests that you could form a Coalition but hasnt Unite, your largest donor said it would leave if that happens ?
    Even the ultra-loyalist Labour List are starting to accept that you have already lost, see their current peice on the Scots polls.

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