As you might imagine, a year out from a general election the one question I get asked more than any other is “well, who is going win then?”. It’s a question I try to avoid answering like the plague. The simple answer is we don’t know – polls measure public opinion now, not a year ahead. Assuming no change from the polls now (which would imply a Labour majority) is a naive approach that would have served you poorly in past Parliaments. Assuming public opinion will change in the same way as it has towards the end of previous elections gives you a prediction (hung Parliament, Tories the biggest party), but also gives you huge confidence margins that stretch from a Tory landslide to a comfortable Labour majority.

My answer, therefore, tends to be to give the five questions (and one observation) that I think will decide the next election one way or another…

1) How will the growing economy effect the polls?

The economy has universally been the issue that voters see as most important in polls since the economic crisis began, and as such has been a major influence on voting intention. Economic confidence amongst the general public started rising sharply early in 2013 in all the major trackers, and has continued on a broadly positive trend. This has coincided with movement in public attitudes towards the government’s economic policies. From being neck-and-neck with Labour on the economy last year the Conservatives now have a consistent lead. Last year YouGov’s cuts trackers consistently showed that people thought that their cuts to public spending, while necessary, were actually bad for the economy, now they show more people think the cuts were good for the economy. It is impossible to draw a causal link, but over the same period the average Labour lead has dropped from about 10 points to around about 5 or 6 points.

Whether or not the facts back them up (that is a discussion for some economic blog elsewhere), the recovering economy seems to be having the effect of convincing some the public that the government’s economy policy was right and that the Conservatives can be trusted more on the economy. I am not an economist and this is not an economics blog, so I have no educated view on if the economy will continue to grow, which seems to be what commentators expect. Assuming it does, will that lead to continuing increases in government approval and a bigger lead for them on the economy, and will that translate into increased support? More specifically, while polls show people are more optimistic about the economy as a whole, they are still downbeat about their own personal finances. Will people themselves start to feel better off in the next 14 months, and would that translate into more government support?

A final thing to watch there is how important people say the economy is. There are examples of government’s losing elections despite being ahead on the economy – the classic is 1997. The reason becomes apparent if you look at what issues people told pollsters were important in 1997 – it wasn’t the economy (where the Tories were still holding their own), it was public services like the NHS and education where Labour were a mile ahead. I don’t think 14 months is long enough for this to happen, but if the economy really starts getting better keep an eye on whether people stop telling pollsters it is such an important issue.

2) Will Ed Miliband’s unpopularity matter anymore than it does now?

I find the contrast between Ed Miliband’s ratings and Labour’s support a puzzle. There really is a gulf between them. The basic facts are straightfoward – for an opposition leader whose party has been consistently ahead in the polls for years Ed Miliband’s ratings are horrible. His approval ratings are horrid, down at IDS, Howard and Hague levels; best Prime Minister ratings normally track voting intention pretty closely but Ed Miliband trails behind David Cameron by around 15 points. Polls consistently find that people think Ed Miliband is weak and not up to the job of Prime Minister. This is not just a case of opposition leaders always polling poorly compared to incumbent Prime Ministers – if you compare Ed Miliband’s ratings now to David Cameron’s in opposition Miliband is doing far worse. For example, in 2008 49% thought David Cameron looked like a PM in waiting, only 19% think the same about Ed Miliband now. To claim that Miliband’s ratings are not dire is simply denial. Yet Labour consistently lead in the polls.

Pause for a second, and imagine that we didn’t ask voting intention in polls. Imagine all you had to go on was all the other figures – the polls asking who people would trust more on the economy, who would make the better Prime Minister, who people trust on the issues they currently think are most important. Based on those figures alone the next election looks as if it should be a Conservative walkover…and yet Labour consistently lead in the polls.

The paradox between the underlying figures, which in most areas are increasingly favourable to the Conservatives, and the headline figures, consistently favourable to Labour, are fascinating. They are something I’ve returned to time and again without apology, as I’m sure there’s a key message here. Whatever the result of the next election, it’ll tell the loser something very important. If the Conservatives win, Labour will need to learn about using the goodwill an opposition gets to actually build up the foundations to, well, support their support (I suspect they’d also have to accept that getting a leader who people take seriously as a potential PM really is a prerequisite). If Labour win, the Conservatives should take home the message that leadership, economic competence and being preferred on policies really isn’t enough, that they have a serious issue with how people perceive their party and its values that needs to be addressed (I doubt they would learn that lesson, but there goes).

Given Labour are ahead now, I think the question is whether perceptions of the opposition and the choice of Prime Minister increase in importance as the election approaches and voting intention becomes less of a way of people indicating their opinion of the government, and more a choice between two alternatives. The reason Labour poll badly on so many of these underlying questions is not because Labour voters say they prefer Cameron and the Tories, it’s because many Labour voters simply say don’t know (or none of them). They aren’t convinced Miliband would be a good PM or Labour would run the economy well. Will those people overcome those doubts? Vote Labour regardless? Or do something else?

3) What level of support will UKIP get at the general election

Looking back over UKIP’s performance in the Parliament so far their support has mostly followed a pattern of election successes leading to boosts in the polls, followed by a decline to a new, higher plateau. I think UKIP can fairly comfortably expect a strong performance European elections (personally I would still expect them to come top, but whatever happens it’s going to be a strong showing). This will in turn be followed by another publicity boost and another boost in the Westminster polls. It will vary between different pollsters, as ever, but I think we can expect UKIP in the mid to high teens with the telephone polls and up in the low-twenties with the more favourable online companies.

From then on, it’s probably a case of a decline as we head towards the general election as the focus moves more towards the Con-v-Lab battle. The question is how quickly that support fades and to what extent. Here we are very much in unknown territory. UKIP got up to around 8% in the Westminster polls following the 2009 European elections, but declined to around 3% by the 2010 election; the Greens got up to 8% in the polls following the 1989 European election, but declines to 0.5% of the vote by the 1992 election. This time round is clearly different in terms of the size and scale of UKIP’s support and history provides no good guide. Neither does present polling – people are notoriously bad at answering questions on whether they’ll change their mind or what might make them change their mind. We are flying blind – but given that UKIP support has thus far disproportionately come from people who supported the Conservatives at the last election it is something that would have implications for the level of Tory support come the general election.

4) How resilient will Liberal Democrat incumbents be?

The three points so far have been about levels of overall support at the next election. The fourth is instead about distribution of the vote and therefore the outcome in numbers of MPs. On a uniform swing the Liberal Democrats will face severe losses in the election. It obviously depends just how badly they do, whether they are still in the coalition, whether they recover towards the election and so on, but projections of them losing half their seats are not unusual. However, there is also an expectation that Liberal Democrats will do better than this because of their incumbent MPs’ personal vote. Analysis from past elections and from studies like the PoliticsHome and Lord Ashcroft polls of marginal seats are pretty consistent in showing that Liberal Democrat MPs benefit more from personal votes than politicians from other parties, they handily won the Eastleigh by-election and have managed to hold on to councillors in some (but not all) of the areas where they have MPs. This would point to the Liberal Democrats actually doing better in terms of MPs than the raw numbers would suggest, although don’t expect magic… Lib Dem MPs might outperform the national trend, but it doesn’t render them immune to it. If you’ve lost a third to a half of your support, it has to come from somewhere and would be naive to expect it all to come from places you don’t need it.

As a caveat to this Lib Dem optimism though, look at the Scottish Parliament election in 2011. In that case Lib Dem incumbents didn’t seem to do any better, if anything the Liberal Democrats lost more support in areas where they had the most support to begin with, the very opposite pattern. The cause of this is probably a floor effect (the Lib Dems lost 8% of the vote in the election, but started off with less than 8% in many seats, so by definition more of their lost support had to come in their stronger seats). If the Lib Dems do really badly we may see the same effect at Westminster, if the Lib Dems lose enough support it’s impossible for it all to come from seats where they have hardly any support to begin with! The question is to what degree, if any, Lib Dem MPs can outperform the swing against them.

5) Will Scotland be voting?

Or perhaps more accurately, will the Scottish MPs be sticking around afterwards! All the polls on the Scottish referendum so far have shown the NO campaign in the lead. There has been a slight trend in the direction of yes, but nothing more than that. Personally I would expect the NO campaign to win, but there is obviously a chance they won’t and if so it would massively change our predictions for the next election. Exactly how and when Scottish MPs cease to be members of the House of Commons would need to be decided, but it would obviously disproportionately affect Labour – the Conservatives have only one Scottish MP to lose. More important though would be the wider effect on politics, thus far the Scottish independence referendum is something that has had minimal effect upon politics south of the border. Until January the London based media barely even mentioned it, it’s still something that’s very much a sideshow. If Scotland were to vote yes then then the negotiations in the following 18 months would suddenly become an issue of paramount importance, David Cameron’s position would presumably come under some pressure but either way, nothing would be the same anymore. I don’t expect it to happen, but it would be remiss of me not to include it here.

So, five things that I think will decide the election. I said there was an observation too – remember the impact of the electoral system. This one isn’t a question, we know that the system is more helpful to Labour than the Conservatives and, given the government’s failure to get the boundary review through, will remain that way. Getting ahead in the polls is not enough for the Conservatives – it would probably leave Labour as still the largest party. To get an overall majority the Conservatives need a lead of somewhere in the region of 7 points. We can’t be certain of the exact figures (the double incumbency bonus of MPs newly elected last time round will shift things a bit), but we can be confident that just being ahead isn’t enough for the Tories – they need to be well ahead.


319 Responses to “Five things that will decide the next election”

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  1. “Remember, LD is no longer the reposotory of the ‘protest’ vote — is that now UKIP?”

    Some but I doubt all. The LibDems have (had?) the ability to attract protest votes from both left and right. I imagine UKIP’s appeal will not be so broad.

  2. ROGERH

    “Meanwhile another problem the Tories are likely to have is a shortage of local activists willing to walk the streets.”

    Surely, you meant to say ” … shortage of local activists still able to stand without the aid of a walking-frame.” ?

  3. NHT

    You shouldn’t be ageist about old codgers.

  4. @ Andyo

    “This is why the Ashcroft polling is so fascinating.

    I seem to remember that it shows Lab outperforming in the marginals?”

    Is there a consensus among pollsters about the Ashcroft polling?

    I am sure before the most recent one (a year old) the previous one had Tories doing better in the marginals than their UNS. I just wonder possibly whether there is any doubt about one poll and MOE playing a part or was this poll with the sample size immune to that level of MOE?

  5. @Martyn

    “I think this[2] is the disadvantage of swing (somebody correct me if I’m wrong). I tend to use proportional swings, thus:

    If the LD poll was 24% and the vote in 2010 was x, then[1] if the poll is now 7%, then the vote now would be x*7/24.

    This prevents negative numbers.”

    ————-

    Yes, you are you are using divisors to reduce the chance of negative numbers, whereas if anything we would quite like to use multipliers to amplify the negative numbers…

  6. @JACK

    “Given how many referendums we have already had about the EU why do people think that the Scottish referendum, if lost, will not return in the following parliament?”

    ———-

    Indeed, such is there fervour one could be forgiven for thinking that the campaign for the cause of Independence will continue even after attaining Independence…

  7. Lib Dems got less than 16.6% of the vote in 191 constituencies. Since their vote share in every constituency will be >-1, we must assume that the vote share loss in the remaining 442 constituencies is >16.6%.

    I’ll see what more I can divine from Statgeek’s rather useful list of LD votes.

  8. there = their, gotta keep the board standard up…

  9. Interesting item in the Observer today concerning women in the cabinets of the various governments since the war.
    Tony Blair is way above all the rest at 14. Margaret Thatcher only had 2, no wonder she has never been a feminist icon.
    Dear old Harold Wilson had 4 including Barbara Castle, my heroin at the time.

  10. bfield,

    I’ve never thought of Barbara Castle as addictive.

  11. @Nigel

    Interesting, and thanks for the reply. The Labour candidate you described, and the constituency in which he/she is standing, is almost identical in profile to where I live, as are the local campaigning issues you listed.

    That’s Redditch, by the way, the former fiefdom of one Jacqui Smith!

  12. @HOWARD

    “I see a Martin Rowson cartoon in the offing. I would actually have more respect for his performance if I thought the Lib Dem leader was playing a machiavellian game, but…(well, who knows?).”

    ——–

    After seeing his party taking flak for the bad stuff and failing to get much credit for the better perceived, then getting royally stuffed over AV, wouldn’t be a complete surprise if Cleggo decided to take Cammers down with him. Might explain a few things…

  13. Bill
    LOL, but she was to me!

  14. @SPEARMINT

    “I’m struck by the extent to which Ed Miliband seemed to be the only one of the 2010 Labour leadership slate with a serious plan for how to win in 2020.

    His economic restructuring- if he can pull it off, which is an enormous if, and if he can do it in a single term, which is an even bigger if- would be for Labour what Help to Buy was for the Tories: it would bind a large tranche of voters to the party through economic self-interest.”

    ————

    Yep, it’s about landscape-moulding, which Thatcher really got… Blair did it a bit with immigration and identity politics but Miliband possibly has a more holistic view…

  15. NIGEL

    @”Hastings & Rye ”

    I saw the very excellent MP only the other day whilst walking along the Prom.

  16. @Bfield
    I was a teenager when Barbara was Minister of Transport and introduced the dreaded breathalyser…

    My local had a particularly horrible smelly parrot, but a good talker. He she was trained to squawk – and did so very frequently – as follows:

    Barbara Castle! Barbara Castle! F**k Off!

    Very eloquent, I thought at the time.

  17. RogerH
    Your point about the lack of Tory activists also applies in spades to the LDs at the pres,from observation their numbers have been ‘hollowed-out ‘ since 2010.
    In terms of the coming ‘Ground War ‘ I suspect that only Labour and UKIP (and the SNP) have numbers on their side.

  18. Down here in Bermondsey and Old Southwark, having watched Mo and Haile run down Salter Rd at a speed I wouldn’t have thought possible after 10 miles, I turn my attention to polling. As a true blue Tory, and, ex-banker, I always vote for Simon Hughes, as do many here, to keep the Labour virus from infecting our borough, at the moment I am confident of a Tory win in 2015, however, it could be the Rioja effect, with my current, Marqués de Murrietta Gran Reserva, I’m getting, vanilla, blackcurrent, tobacco, oak, and euphoria, certainly, after perusing AW’s insight’s, I am convinced that 2015 remains all to play for. I’m not convinced by Cammo, certainly my friends at the Royal Blackheath golf club have their doubts about his Tory credentials, GO is our man, anyway, I’m watching the, ‘ Masters’ at the moment, so I’ll leave you all to ignore me, as ever. :-)

  19. GUYMONDE
    I bet you “pi****d” your selves.
    I hope it was never trained to mouth a similar response to “In Place of Strife.”

  20. Mainlining on Babs Castle.

    Whatever next?

  21. ALEC
    Yes, my band mates thought it a bit strange for a bass player. It was certainly cheaper than Amphetamines.

  22. @Guy Monde

    “Barbara Castle! Barbara Castle! F**k Off!”

    That parrot didn’t go by the name of Jim Callaghan by any chance, did it? :-)

  23. @ Ewen Lightfoot

    “In terms of the coming ‘Ground War ‘ I suspect that only Labour…have numbers on their side.”

    Depends on the constituency, he says, forlornly.

  24. @EWEN LIGHTFOOT

    True, although at least the LibDems will be able to concentrate their limited resources on a smaller number of seats.

  25. My Chelsea boys were winners again today, and to add to the pleasure, Wolves are promoted to the Championship, all this resonates on the VI of Wolverhampton electors, who, IMHO, will now convert to Tory. :-)

  26. @KEN

    My Liverpool boys (The REDS) were winners as well…..and top of the league. It’s an omen I tell you.

  27. Just looked in, mine’s out but Colin is consigned to purgatory. Pity, I was looking forward to it.

    Great news Ken lives!

    BTW on the actual thread, I don’t agree with 1 and 2 being important for the 2015 outcome, nor 5, for the reasons Amber gives.

    3 and 4 though. It’s FTPT stupid. (not you AW – phew).

  28. @NORBOLD……..If my Chelsea boys, ( Blues ) don’t turn you Reds over on the 27th, I for one will wish you well for the title. :-)

  29. @NORBOLD………By the way, I will be at Anfield to give the Blues one extra voice, match of the season, as it turns out. :-)

  30. Yep! Should be the decider now…but, a bit like the General Election, it will be good enough just for the Reds to draw!

  31. Thank you for your good wishes, Ken, And similarly for you and Chelsea. At least that other red team we don’t talk about are well out of it and out of Europe!

  32. @HOWARD……….Is it time to commence the great UKPR polling countdown ? A time to relish, great fun ahead. :-)

  33. Regarding AW’s 5 factors, I can’t help feeling that number 3 (UKIP) is probably going to be the most significant.

    I don’t discount a yes vote, but it seems to be less likely than no. Ed M is not popular, but has shown a knack to raise banners at key moments, and perhaps his ratings are baked in already, as AW suggests. Lib Dems – who knows, although I suspect there will still be anti Con tactical voting, but Lib Dem performance is probably more likely to affect the detail of the result, rather than the direction. The economy may improve, but as suggested, this might lead to other issues creeping up the voter’s agenda.

    No – I can’t help feeling that the biggest single factor will be how UKIP perform. They’re taking such a chunk of VI at present and this is significant. They’ve held it for a long time, and post tuition fees, there isn’t another protest party to compete with them. Farage is a bright operator, and the performance of his party over a lengthy period is likely to bring them better coverage.

    Without the impact of the collapse and redistribution of the Lib Dem vote from 2010, a couple of percent on UKIP would really dent Tory chances, but this time it’s much more difficult to assess. However, I do think UKIP are going to add more than a couple of percent. I think they are the crucial factor.

  34. @NORBOLD………..Let battle commence, I would suggest, that given, ‘The Big One’ we have the easier run-in.

  35. Didn’t take you for an alphabetti-spaghetti man Howard.
    ———
    That’s what’s been missing – thank goodness Rosie & Daisie are back! :-)

  36. Other things Miliband didn’t do which also may have helped VI…

    – Omnishambles budget
    – unbalanced, housing-led recovery…
    – … such that recovery doesn’t result in much improvement in standard of living
    – government actions resulting in perceptions of unfairness in polling

  37. amber

    You’re ever so kind.

  38. @SYZYGY

    “I take Thorium seriously .. except that I don’t quite know why the UK should invest in nuclear of either sort. But if that’s the plan, Thorium wins hands down.

    However, making electricity is easy and what we really need is a nationalised HVDC grid to join all the different renewables together for redistribution.

    6h sunlight falling on the world’s deserts would provide the annual global energy need.

    Btw Thorium is never going to be adopted because its too abundant. Profits are negatively correlated with abundance .. hence the destruction of clove trees in the 18th Century.

    I’m also happy to talk MMT (as far as I’m able) if it brings RiN back.. ..”

    ————————————-

    Thanks again for your response, soz for the delay – real life (and leaky boilers) intruding, and yes, you are asking the critical questions. When I looked into it though, it seems as though they got it covered.

    Sure, in principle, we could cover the Sahara in solar collectors, but… we don’t own the Sahara. So we have to wait for someone else to do it. And there are a few projects, but it doesn’t look as though large scale use of the Sahara is going to happen any time soon.

    Even if it did, it’s quite a big project to cover that much land with collectors and we have to distribute the power to where it is needed in Europe etc. This is costly, and you lose energy in the power lines. There is the further problem of energy security… ‘cos we don’t own the Sahara. We will need smart grids and possibly a fair amount of storage too.

    Of course, we can use our own renewables, wind, tidal and some solar etc. but these can take up a lot of land, energy and resources to build, have habitat issues, are often some distance from where needed hence power loss, and you need the smart grids and storage again.

    Thorium meanwhile offers other advantages… it can burn up existing waste from older reactors, it produces high temperature waste heat to power other industrial processes, doesn’t need water so doesn’t need to be sited near rivers and lakes etc. but can be sited where needed, is not intermittent, produces by-products that are really rather useful, from unique and valuable medical isotopes to food irradiation, and most of all, it offers the potential of cheap, very abundant energy. Not simply to cater to current usage, but to allow us to considerably increase provision beyond what is used at present, without greenhouse issues.

    There is a strong correlation between energy use and economic development. More prosperous nations use, and can afford more energy. If you have more reasonably-priced energy available, you can produce more, the economy can grow. Provide cheaper, more abundant energy, and you can make it easier for nations to lift themselves out of poverty.

    Meanwhile, cheaper, more abundant energy for us could make many things possible that are not realistic currently, such as extracting atmospheric CO2 to synthesise petrol substitutes. The availability of energy transformed our lives, and more energy could provide more advances. It could power mass-desalination solving freshwater issues, reversing desertification, urban vertical food production, a lot more recycling, cuts in the costs of production, a lot more automation and robotics, a lot more high-powered computing… and lots, lots more.

    And… it could power a moonbase…

    Sorenson argues that in the absence of abundant energy, slavery was historically commonplace… the advent of fossil fuels fostered the move away from slavery. Once we learned to make carbon our slave, as he put it, we started to learn how to be civilised. Conversely, declining energies causes a reversion towards barbarism. There’s a motive therefore to provide cheap energy for poorer nations; he doesn’t say this, but even more abundant energy might result in being even more civilised…

    Of course, left to the private sector, there’s little interest because it would both require investment and also breaks their current business model, whereby they can charge healthy amounts for fuel processing etc. This is where the state comes in, as it did for nuclear in the first place. The real incentive of course is for nations that need lots of energy but lack sufficient fossil fuel resources, hence India and China have significant Thorium programmes now. Once someone makes it commercially viable, it’ll be a game-changer and force other nations to adopt similar.

    (I’m also happy to talk MMT, though I don’t know as much as I’d like to about it. It’s interesting stuff, but I keep finding other interesting stuff to look into, which this board tends to foster as well. I do like to read a bit of Bill Mitchell from time-to-time, but in bite-size chunks… was reading his take on QE recently… he’s not too impressed it seems. Jobs guarantee as a means of getting full employment without inflation is interesting too…)

  39. My head’s spinning a bit after all the posts, but I particularly agree with point 5a – that the electoral system makes a win harder for the Conservatives.

    And yes, the opinion polls can change, and often do, but only a little this time so far. All the parties must be looking for the magic recipe to win over the public, but so far the Conservatives have not managed to regain the lead.

    In the absence of evidence to the contrary I would still predict a Labour win, but like everyone else I cannot tell the future.

    And so to bed.

  40. @Carfrew

    “such that recovery doesn’t result in much improvement in standard of living”

    This excellent link provided earlier by Monsieur/dame l’electeur flottante informs:

    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171766_358832.pdf

    @Norbold/Ken
    A stunning, highly charged, beautiful WIN FOR THE REDS put the Blues lacklustre scramble against lowly Swans in perspective. Both Hansen and Didi are backing the reds for the title and obviously they wouldn’t be biased…

    Crossbat/Bfield
    Jim Callaghan (aka Peter the parrot) was not a political sophisticate and like others I could mention only really had one policy, not unconnected by his ’employment’ in a rural pub with a large car park

  41. It seems to me that the polls reflect, as AW avers, that uncommitted, or transient, Labour supporters are in a quandary, whilst they, like all human beings, want to support a party that broadly reflects their views, they also want a strong leader, the country needs a strong leader. Miliband is perceived, by most people, as weak, so, potential Labour voters are torn between a party with a weak leader, that reflects their views, or a party that is getting the job done for the country as a whole. I think, as AW points out, that these current potential Labour supporters will do their duty to their country, and vote Tory in 2015.

  42. KEN

    ” the country needs a strong leader.”

    Putin for UK PM!

  43. @GUYMONDE……….Lacklustre, yes, from a team that just defeated PSG in the Champions league for a place in the semi-finals, I’ll take a bit of a lacklustre win . :-)

  44. OLDNAT………McPutin would be an SNP shoe-in on the West Coast. :-)

  45. EM that oh so weak leader, who won the leadership of his party when everyone thought he couldn’t, who took the Unions on when everyone said he couldn’t, who took on the Energy compoanies when everyone said he couldnt, who leads a party which has consistenly led the polls….

    Seems to me thats not bad for a weak leader, and the constant portrayal of him as ‘weak’ could be a fatal mistake by his opponents as they may end up believing that means he is incapable of winning.

    Never forget ‘Bambi’ Blair and what followed…..

  46. OLDNAT……….Shoo-in, of course.

  47. BALBS……..Be careful what you wish for, we’re talking about the future of the Country here.

  48. KEN

    But Polly Toynbee on the Sunday Politics today made it clear that, after a NO! vote, no one from a Scottish constituency should ever be the leader of a UK party, or hold a major office of state at Westminster.

    So your Mr/Mrs/Ms McPutin, as UK PM, would have to be a “shoo-in”[1] for the Somerset Naturist Party.

    [1] If the shoe fits, wear it

  49. KEN

    This is a great site – but the inability to correct a typo is, perhaps, its worst characteristic.

  50. Thanks for the link Guymonde. Sobering stuff about how although there is growth, it’s spread among more people, so overall individuals do not benefit, and meanwhile net disposable income is declining.

    Also, what recovery there is is on the back of very low interest rates, QE, and artificially stoking housing. Which is not suggestive of robustness.

    Furthermore… the question of services. AW may well be right that 14 months may not be enough for Blair-style leads on the matter, but in a tight election you do not need Blair-style leads…

    [Carfrew – Labour already have a solid lead on the NHS! I was thinking more that 14 months probably wasn’t enough for the economy to improve sufficently for people to stop caring. It’s more the point that’s there’s an economic sweet spot for the government – if it’s completely rubbish the public think you are rubbish too, and you suffer. If it’s improving but it not there yet people think you are doing well and might want to keep you. If it’s completely okay again then people might think you did a good job, but it’s done now and they’ve got other things to worry about, where you might not be so highly regarded… – AW]

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