By any standards the Tories must be odds-on to lose the next election. They have not won an election with an overall majority for 22 years, and if they couldn’t win an overall majority in 2010 in the aftermath of the crash and against one of the most unpopular prime ministers in modern times, they won’t win one now when their position is much worse. Ashcroft’s polling finds that one-third of the people who voted Conservative in 2010 are not planning to do so now, and clearly Tory votes are haemorrhaging badly to UKIP. In particular Ashcroft has found that Labour’s position is significantly stronger in the marginals and overall he believes that “the number of Conservative losses could extend to the point where Labour have a confortable working majority”. Even Ruth Davidson, the Tory leader in Scotland, admitted during the Scottish referendum campaign that she didn’t believe the Tories could win in 2015. And given the latest evidence of UKIP defections (with likely more to come) plus sleaze again rearing its ugly head plus deep Tory divisions over Europe and an ungovernable Tory Right in full-scale rebellion against Cameron, the Tory party today lacks unity, vision and discipline.
Yet with an election to lose, Labour seem intent on doing just that. Despite being ahead of the Tories on every policy area bar one- the economy, where the Tories now lead by a full 25% – Labour now seems transfixed by trying to outdo them in promises of austerity, a bigger turn-off for voters than it’s possible to imagine. Labour has allowed itself to be outflanked by Tory claims that it was responsible for the financial crash (as though the bankers had nothing to do with it), that Osborne’s recovery has repaired the damage (as though the ‘recovery’ isn’t fragile and unsustainable, with no demand to promote growth), and that austerity is the only way forward (when it has failed on every count, including the crucial one of rapidly reducing the deficit, which is now actually rising). Why should disillusioned electors vote for Labour when it insists it’s going to be at least as tough as Osborne in enforcing austerity for another 5 years? Voters need hope: why doesn’t Labour get behind a policy of public investment to expand the economy, create jobs, raise incomes and government revenues, and thus pay down the deficit far more quickly and effectively than endless spending cuts?
The Tories are no better. At least they have a vision which is to drag Britain back to the Downton Abbey years of the 1930s. But they seem determined to throw the election away, not only by Eurosceptic fanaticism which registers as a priority with only about 3% of the population, but above all by their ideological zeal to defenestrate the State and the public sector, and impoverish a third of the electorate on the way as collateral damage, under the triumphal auspices that only they can take tough decisions on the economy. The ‘effing Tories seem to want their own comeuppance.