FOR almost a fortnight, the polls have been stubbornly pointing at a hung parliament after 6 May. But the most likely result is a small, workable Tory majority. Here are five reasons why:
1) Gillian Duffy. Bigot-gate will come to define this election campaign, which has been pretty safe and dull so far. Not necessarily because Gordon Brown has offended a working-class, widowed, old-aged pensioner (the kind of person Labour claims to stand up for). Nor because he described her widely-held views on immigration as “bigoted”. The reason this will damage Brown is because his off-camera but on-mic comments highlight all his character flaws. They confirm his duplicity, his tendency to say something in public (“I worked harmoniously with Tony Blair for 10 years… Alistair Darling is a fantastic chancellor”) while doing something completely contradictory behind closed doors (consistently briefing against Blair and Darling). They also prove that he always points the finger at others, in this case Sue Nye, a loyal lieutenant of 20-years that arranged for Mrs Duffy to meet him. Mrs Duffy is not a Tory, she is someone that has always voted Labour. There must be many like her that are now wondering whether they should break the habit of a lifetime.
2) The Tories think they’re going to win a majority. This might sound obvious, but privately Tory strategists are extremely confident. Everything they have at their disposal, from gut feeling and doorstep chats to canvass returns that are fed into their proprietary computer system, tells them they’re going to win. The same can’t be said of Labour strategists, who now openly admit that a hung parliament is their only chance of staying in government.
3) The surge in Liberal Democrat support is soft. Already beginning to trail away, the sudden increase in Lib Dem support was always shaky. Voters want to give the main parties a bloody nose for the expenses crisis, and have been impressed by the formerly unknown Nick Clegg. But the Europhile, pacifist, civil liberties agenda that shapes Lib Dem policy does not chime with mainstream thinking in this country. The Lib Dems are on track to win more seats, but won’t deny the Tories a majority.
4) It’s the marginals, stupid. If you think the Tories’ huge war chest of cash doesn’t matter, you need to visit a marginal constituency. There’s hardly a billboard that hasn’t been bought up for a Tory campaign poster, while armies of activists distribute more leaflets than Labour can afford. Notoriously difficult to poll properly, the Tories thinks most of the marginals will swing their way.
5) Listen to the pollsters, not the polls. The polls point to a hung parliament, but the people carrying them out say the Tories will win a majority. They can predict the share of the vote, but ready-reckoners that turn the percentages into seat predictions are too biased towards Labour. Changes in constituency boundaries have helped eradicate some the inherent bias towards Labour in the first-past-the post system, while extra Lib Dem support also makes transferring share into seats very tricky.