With the SNP’s party conference to come at the end of the month, this week sees the last of the contenders for government. It has been 2 years since the Conservatives took the lead in the polls, with a record lead of 20+ percent in mid 2008. That has fallen back and grown, but the current poll lead is 12/13%. This is projected to deliver a Conservative majority of between 42-45 seats (as opposed to 100+ seat majority as recently as August). Yet all is not as well with the Conservatives as it should be for a party striding towards power.
While the distinct lack of real policies do have an impact, and I suspect this will to a certain respect be rectified this week. The caginess to impart any policy information may have led people to speculate about what the Tories are trying to hide. New Labour have already tried this by painting the Tories as itching to cut public services, before their own figures were leaked. Whether they have anything to hide is anyone’s guess, and this perhaps is the subject of another blog closer to the election, but for a party trying to paint itself whiter than Blair-white their reticence does not give off good vibes.
There is though a forming consensus about Cameron’s Conservatives that they are ahead in the polls not because they are seen as the next government in waiting, but because they are the beneficiaries of an anti Brown vote. There is polling evidence that Cameron’s lead is not a solid lead, which a change in leader for New Labour would lead to reduced majorities or even a hung parliament. This is before polling from here in Scotland is considered, where the Conservatives are currently on 22-23%, not really the desired mandate for Cameron here. Even this weekend, there was a poll saying 49% of people questioned did not know what Cameron stood for.
The Irish have also put a rather large spanner in the works as well. On Saturday, the results of the second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty were announced. The Irish backed the treaty, with 67.1% voting for the treaty and 32.9% voting against the treaty. This has rather exposed the Conservatives splits on Europe, with Cameron using rather more diplomatic language than he would have done a couple of years ago. This has not gone down well with certain Tories, who want more clarity regarding a possible referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
These are reasons why the Conservatives are rather more nervous than they should be, certainly reports suggest Cameron was uncertain when interviewed by Andrew Marr this morning. This conference has been described by various commentators & bloggers as Operation Seal the Deal, as they see Cameron as having to have a good conference and spell out key sections of their policy ideas, in order to “seal the deal” and ensure a Conservative victory at the polls next spring. I suspect that even if they do this, and policies are announced, I don’t think that they will win by very much. My long term prediction is a Conservative victory, but with a majority in single figures. Unless the New Labour vote collapses, this scenario is still a possibility.