What the 2011 Local election results show is that Cameron will not be able to erode the Labour lead by 'calling voters home' - Ed Miliband's lead may be small but hard to shift
The Westminster conventional wisdom – that Ed Miliband’s Labour Party is not doing well enough – appears to be based on two contradictory notions. The first is that Labour needs to build a larger opinion poll lead than its current typical 4-5 per cent, as it will gradually erode before the next election. The other is that the Tory vote is holding up – as evidenced by last week’s election results. But if, in effect, the Tories have not lost any votes to Labour, it’s hard to see what erosion can take place.
Both opinion polling and the local election results provisionally point to the same picture: Labour has picked up votes from the Liberal Democrats, but not from the Conservatives. So, for example, from the findings of the latest Ipsos-Mori monthly poll, we find that almost 20 per cent of Liberal Democrat voters have gone over to Labour, only 3 per cent of Conservatives have. In fact, 5 per cent of Lib Dem voters have gone over to the Tories.
This would seem to be borne out by the 2011 local election results, which showed large gains for Labour by historical standards, the Liberal Democrats being decimated. Meanwhile, the Conservative actually added councillors – which you would expect if some Labour-aligned voters who backed the Liberal Democrats at the 2010 general election have ‘come home’, allowing the Lib Dem vote to fall below their Conservative challengers.
So if Cameron is to claw back those four to five points, it’s not going to come from Labour – who are either voters that stood with the party through the nadir of 2010, or are former Lib Dem voters, presumably unhappy with the decision of Nick Clegg to go into the coalition.
How the votes churned will only be fully understood after weeks of analysis. However, the prime minister’s best bet appears to be for the Lib Dem image to shift left, so his junior coalition partner can bring back some of those former voters, and may even leave their right flank vulnerable to the Tories. But that seems impossible under the leadership of the current deputy prime minister. Which suggests a very odd scenario:
It’s in David Cameron’s best interest that the Liberal Democrats dump Nick Clegg before the next election.