Cameron must do better than Churchill, Heath and Thatcher to win

David Cameron will need to win more than 80 more seats than Labour to win the election, more than the 70-seat lead in 1979 and the 26-seat lead in October 1951.

David Cameron will need to win more than 80 more seats than Labour to win the next election – more than Mrs Thatcher’s 70-seat lead in 1979 and more than three times Winston Churchill’s 26-seat lead over Labour in October 1951, according to new research in this month’s Prospect.

Another headache for Cameron, says Prospect, is that when the Tories last won an election, under John Major in 1992, the Liberal Democrats won 20 seats – a number they have more than now trebled to 62.

Nearly all these additional seats are in natural Tory territory, with only a slim chance of turning blue.

The research was carried out by Peter Kellner, president of YouGov and one of the foremost authorities on polling, who explains that:

“Cameron’s task is made much harder by Britain’s unusually large block of third and minor party MPs. In 1979 there were just 28 such MPs, meaning Thatcher was able to govern comfortably having won just 71 more Tory than Labour MPs.

“But by 2005, that 28 had more than trebled to become 92. So this year, if the Tories manage to lead Labour by 71 — on the face of it a good result, given Labour’s lead of 158 after 2005 — Cameron will almost certainly not secure an overall majority.

“More significantly, as long as at least 70 MPs belong to a mix of Lib Dems and minor parties, future elections could throw up hung parliaments too.”

In his article, Kellner unveils his “seven pillars of electoral wisdom” for the election; these are:

1. To win, the Tories must carry the north, not just the south

Using the new boundaries, the Tories need 24 seats to wipe out Labour’s majority. If they are to become the largest party, they must take 40 more seats, many of which are in the Midlands. And to win an overall majority they must prevail in a third batch of seats, mostly in the north.

2. The election won’t be decided by a few thousand votes in a handful of seats

Most MPs are safe. The real battleground comprises at most a third of the 650 seats, but this still means many millions of votes “really” matter. If an MP loses by, say, 97 votes, crying over not managing to gain an extra 49 voters makes no sense. To win a seat, a candidate needs around 20,000 votes; to single out the tiny number that comprises half-the-majority-plus-one is absurd.

3. Essex man and Worcester woman don’t decide elections

It is hard for journalists to resist finding “typical” voters in a marginal seat, and asking their views, but in general, it is rare for particular demographic groups to move very differently from the electorate as a whole.

4. The Lib Dems could deny David Cameron victory

Of the 17 seats won by Margaret Thatcher where the Tories have fallen into third place, nine were were won off them by Labour, but have in turn been taken by the Lib Dems. Almost all are out of reach for the Tories this time round. All in all, it will be surprising if net Tory gains from the Lib Dems climb above single digits.

5. Issues don’t win elections; valence does

Experts and political nerds hold strong positional views about many aspects of public policy. But most voters — and a large majority of floating voters — don’t, and are valence voters. They care mostly whether politicians are decent, honest, capable and on their side.

6. Polls have improved, but aren’t perfect

Pollsters were traumatised by their failure to predict the Conservative victory in 1992. All have since changed their methods, albeit in different ways; and new companies, like Kellner’s YouGov, have sprung up. Even so, the polls might not be right this time either. Things may be different, but it will not be possible to tell until afterwards.

7. Campaigns don’t win elections, but stuff happens

In general, election campaigns produce more noise than electoral movement. Most voters make up their mind before the campaigns start; and those who wait tend to divide fairly evenly between the main contestants. It is perfectly possible, however, that some major event could alter the course of this election, and so do enough to produce either a Tory landslide or a fourth Labour victory. If any of the leaders make an almighty gaffe in the tv debates, for example, he will suffer.

• The latest issue of Prospect Magazine is out today, and also contains a feature on the “Thameslink Tories”, the swing voters on the Bedford to Brighton mainline who could decide the election.

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21 Responses to “Cameron must do better than Churchill, Heath and Thatcher to win”

  1. Left Foot Forward

    Cameron must do better than Churchill, Heath and Thatcher to win: http://is.gd/9aIOI

  2. House Of Twits

    RT @leftfootfwd Cameron must do better than Churchill, Heath and Thatcher to win: http://is.gd/9aIOI

  3. Claire Hazelgrove

    Very interesting read RT @leftfootfwd: Cameron must do better than Churchill, Heath and Thatcher to win: http://is.gd/9aIOI

  4. Frank

    Don’t gloat too soon.

  5. Julian Ware-Lane

    You may find this interesting – http://www.labourlist.org/everything_to_play_for_julian_ware_lane

    The Conservatives will have to do better than every election since 1931, and that election was fought under extraordinary circumstances.

  6. Grumpy Old Man

    Peter Kellner. Isn’t he the husband of Lady Aston, the Labour apparachik who got chosen for the consolation job of EU Foreign Affairs minister when Tone didn’t get the Presidency? If his company is polling for the General Election, isn’t there a possibility of a wee conflict of interest? I do hope YouGov continue to release raw data and methodology. After all, it’s a Statisticians professional joke that if you torture numbers for long enough, they’ll say anything.

  7. Mr. Sensible

    There are 2 marginal seats here in Nottinghamshire that, if the Tories want to form the government they should be looking to win.
    I think the performence of our Tory County Council’s made that a lot harder.

  8. Paul Evans

    LFF says that Cameron faces more of an uphill struggle than he may think this year http://tinyurl.com/yggrjcz

  9. Wera Hobhouse

    RT @Paul0Evans1: LFF says that Cameron faces more of an uphill struggle than he may think this year http://tinyurl.com/yggrjcz

  10. PICamp

    Cameron has to do better than Mrs T, it seems? http://tinyurl.com/yggrjcz

  11. John77

    And you think Alex Salmond and Peter Robinson will support Brown in a Vote of Confidence if the Conservatives have 50 more seats than Labour?
    Dream on!
    Cameron only needs to get more seats than Labour, Respect and the LibDems combined

  12. Billy Blofeld

    In some ways it would be fantastic if Labour won the election. Clearing up the usual chronic mess left behind by a typical Labour government, would kill Labour.

    The sheer size, scale and disfunctionality left behind by the current Labour government, would kill Labour once an for all, if it was also required to go through the pain of clearing up it’s own mess.

  13. Anon E Mouse

    Labour will be rightly trounced at the next election – the Tories will win in the way Johnson rightly did in London. Good.

    Leaving aside the disgraceful way this government has treated it’s people (did anyone see Peter Hain again last night on QT?) the election will be won in the marginals and suburbs.

    For Labour, irrespective of what the Labour spiv Kellner says, it’s over.

  14. Politics Summary: Friday, February 26th | Left Foot Forward

    […] 3) – with 64% of voters already having made up their mind and only 27% likely to change. Left Foot Forward yesterday reported that David Cameron would have to do better than Churchill, Heath and Thatcher to […]

  15. Shamik Das

    Anon/Grumpy, so much for not shooting the messenger or going after people’s spouses! And if Kellner’s such a “Labour spiv” why is YouGov doing a daily tracker with The Sun, and why did he appoint Nadhim Zahawi, new Tory PPC for Stratford-upon-Avon, as chief exec of YouGov?!

  16. Anon E Mouse

    Shamik – I’m going after Kellner – he’s always been a Labour spiv. YouGov will do a poll for whoever pays them and The Sun has been pro New Labour for over a decade – it only stopped being with what it considers to be the open deceit displayed by Labour in the last few months.

    Just note please Shamik and Will that I still think the election will be before May 6 and if you go back over my posting you’ll see I’ve been consistent on this point…

  17. Liz McShane

    Anon – so you are happy for the Tories to win then?

  18. Anon E Mouse

    Liz – Absolutely not. But they will and deservedly so.

    What has *really* got me miffed this morning is watching Andy Burnham and his criticism of the Tory position on healthcare. Then he spoke to PM last night and, as you know, refused a public enquiry into that hospital where the patients were treated worse than cattle and many died through negligence.

    He had some fair points as to why no enquiry – (I sided with the people whose relatives and loved ones had died through the hospitals disgraceful behaviour but that’s just me) and then we discover last night that he was the minister who signed off on the place to change it’s status. No wonder he doesn’t want an enquiry.

    And that’s just it Liz the whole Labour Party since the current PM took over take the electors as fools, claiming black is white.

    For example the only person on the planet who seems to think No 10 weren’t engaged in bullying is Peter Hain on Question Time. Even when presented with evidence and the words of the government’s own chancellor he still denies it.

    A new breed will help the left rise from the ashes after the forthcoming drubbing and I just hope it is based on honesty and decency and less on spin and lies and bullying. Less Tony McNaultys and Kevin McGuires and more Frank Fields please.

    And before you start on me this time Shamik you may want to check my posts this week regarding Hansard and the confirmation of four cases of bullying agreed by government ministers in the last few years. I rest my case.

    Anybody but this current incarnation of Labour please…

  19. uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Paul0Evans1: LFF says that Cameron faces more of an uphill struggle than he may think this year http://tinyurl.com/yggrjcz

  20. Liz McShane

    Anon – to say that the tories deserve to win takes a major leap of faith but can you tell me why they do ? Forget about your views of Labour’s shortcomings i am really interestedn hearing your views on the tories!

  21. Anon E Mouse

    Liz – They want to get rid of ID cards, restore civil liberties, reduce the number of MPs to 500 and get rid of centralised big government giving more power to the people.

    Took me about a second to come up with that list. Need any more?

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