GE2015 minus 32: static polls

Posted: 5 April 2015 in general election 2015, politics
Tags: , ,

As we get closer to the general election, all the parties are waiting for one thing, one very important thing… that isn’t happening.

The polls aren’t shifting. Sure, there’s an occasional teeny tiny increase or decrease, an increase of one percentage point or a reduction by the same amount, all of which are within the margin of error.

The polls aren’t shifting.

And that must be scaring the hell out of the party leaders and the campaign managers. Because they should have by now. Or at least so goes the accepted wisdom. The government have been waiting for the ‘news’ that the economy is recovering after Labour’s profligacy to get through to people, and the consequent jump in their likely political fortunes. The Lib Dems are similarly waiting for people to realise that no matter how bad things have been, they’d have been worse with a Tory majority government, and are eager for folks to realise that a moderating influence on a major ideologically led party is a good thing. Labour are, quite understandably, waiting for people to wake the hell up and provide the party with an opportunity to throw this government, along with it’s non-evidence-based policies, out on its ear. And of course, UKIP are waiting for the polls to move in their favour, as opposed to very, very slowly ebbing away.

So what the hell is actually happening?

Nothing. 

The ‘debate’ should have given someone a bump. The interviews with Paxman should have given someone a bump. The policy statements – that may or may not end up in the manifestos, I remind you – should have given someone a bump. But they haven’t. Any movements in the polls have been well within the margin of error. There are lots of folks who’re writing on this, but I’d venture to suggest that there’s a very simple reason: none of the parties are offering anything new.

All the parties’ offerings are exactly what you could have predicted a year ago, or two years ago or even longer. The parties are so concerned about not losing their existing grass roots base, that they’ve given up on attracting anyone new. Well, apart from immigration. It’s undeniable that the parties are stressing their immigration policies because of UKIP’s constant harping on about it. 

Nigel Farage, in the debate, thought he had it right when he said “We wouldn’t even be HAVING a debate about immigration if it wasn’t for UKIP.”

Thing is, I think that Si Spurrier had it more accurate when he wrote:

As I’ve written before, I don’t think Farage is necessarily racist. But I don’t think he has any hesitation in appealing to racists, or having racists voting UKIP. UKIP has tried to make racism respectable. 

So, leaving that to one side, what else are the parties offering people that’s new? What are the parties offering that could attract someone who doesn’t usually vote for them to… well, to vote for them?

Nothing; their entire campaigns are based upon voters not voting for someone else rather than voting for them

It’s said that we have the newspapers we deserve, that the newspapers respond to reader demand. Which kind of makes sense. For all the complaints about the excesses of tabloid newspapers, the sales of the newspapers hold as steady as they can in a world of free news online. The Sun‘s circulation may dropped by a third since 2010, but it’s still the most popular daily newspaper in the UK by some measure.

And, like it or not, the same applies to our political parties; they want to be elected, so while they should attempt to persuade people to vote for them, they don’t. They instead appeal to the electorate’s fear that someone else, someone wrong, will govern them. 

So Labour throws accusations of brutal cuts at the Conservative Party that they must know aren’t true, while the Tories sling allegations that the Labour Party will plunge us back into the depths of another financial crisis. Again, they have to know this isn’t true. 

The Lib Dems try and have it both ways, as usual: arguing Labour’s case against the Tories and the Conservatives’ case against Labour.

And that would be bad enough, but at least its consistent. But the parties don’t think consistency is good enough for this election. So they’re inconsistent as well; they’re scaremongering about things that simply don’t make sense when you think about it for more than a moment. And they’re most inconsistent about what the other party would do if they don’t win an outright majority. 

Let’s take the Tories first. For five years, they’ve been presenting two specific things about coalition to the electorate: (1) that some things they’ve wanted to do, they haven’t been able to do because they’re in a coalition government, and (2) that the Lib Dems have been a hindrance rather than a help. At no point, however, have they suggested that they’ve been hamstrung by the Lib Dems, that the Lib Dems – in other words – have been running the government and that David Cameron and George Osborne have been dancing to a tune played by Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander. Sure, there have been some arguments, but the basic presentation from Tory Central Office and Number 10 has been a Tory Government not quite being able to do everything they wanted, just almost everything.

But in this election campaign, the chance that the SNP will do a deal with Labour has caused them to concentrate on the ills of coalition and to suggest that Ed Miliband will be a mere puppet, controlled by Alex Salmond in Westminster and by Nicola Sturgeon as the SNP’s leader.

Labour are no better. After five years of presenting a coaltion Government composed of Tories and Lib Dems at a ratio of 5:1 as a Tory Goverment running riot, entirely unrestricted by the useless Lib Dems, they’re claiming that any deal with UKIP would mean a Tory Government achieving anything only at the whim of UKIP’s approval.

And of course, the Lib Dems also want it both ways, complaining (with some justification) that they only didn’t get much done over the past five years because they were only one in six of the government, and then asking the electorate to return them to government, even though they know they’ll have even fewer MPs this time around.

I  wish that the party politcians thought the voters would respond to positive messages. Hell, I wish I believed that. 

The older I get, though, the more I agree with that sage of Baltimore H L Mencken, who said:

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

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Comments
  1. One of the problems about the intellectual wing of the political establishment talking about race/immigration/foreigners/eu is the issue of permission. There is often a ‘nudge nudge wink wink’ subtext going on.

    In the Monty Python sketch the push was to talk about sex. Now I happen to believe there is a genuine debate about resources, asylum, immigration, EU free movement and illegal entry.

    What we get is not a debate about the issue but rather a simple bit of racism and xenophobia.Thatcher famously said in 1979 people feel ‘swamped’ by immigrants. Then we had the others pitching up on the same grounds. Now UKIP is a bit more up front. Then, in the ‘nudge nudge’ style you say to Farage and friends, “aren’t you just being a bit racist” and they go ‘no, no we are just patriots telling the truth’.

    I believe we should start by saying blaming economic problems on the EU and immigration is simplistic. Stopping both wont make people richer or provide more jobs. Now debate the issue without thinking it’s an easy answer to everything.

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