Monday, 26 January 2015

General Election 2015: Don’t be Shy, Be a Tory

by Ethan Creamer

This year’s General Election will be one of the most hotly contested, and many smaller parties are starting to surge in the polls (UKIP and the Greens particularly), much to the detriment of the traditional two main parties. Labour and the Conservatives are neck-in-neck in the polls. A YouGov poll released on 15th January saw them both on 32%, although in terms of seats, due to an in-built electoral advantage for Labour, the Tories will still find themselves with fewer seats. The Conservatives need to be 11.1 percentage points ahead of Labour to get an overall majority – requiring a swing of 2% from Labour. For Labour to win an overall majority they need to be 2.6 percentage points ahead of the Conservatives; they require a swing of 4.9%. If the Conservatives are 4 points ahead of Labour then the two parties would have an equal number of seats. The result of the General Election on 7th May seemingly remains unpredictable and may well be too close to call.

The 1980's leading Leftist Neil Kinnock -
Labour's Leader 1983-1992. He never held ministerial office
During the campaign for the 1992 General Election, Labour often polled higher than the Conservatives. The polling suggested either a Hung Parliament with Labour as the largest party or a small Labour majority. So confident of success was the Labour Party, it nicknamed the Shadow Cabinet ‘the cabinet in waiting’. At Labour’s ‘Sheffield Rally’ - unwisely modelled on American presidential campaign conventions, going overkill with a mix of brass bands and celebrities - the Labour Leader, Neil Kinnock, exclaimed not once, not twice, but three times: “We’re alright! We’re alright! We’re alright!” 

Mr Kinnock lost what composure he possessed, and would later regret shouting such myopic words. John Major’s Conservatives won 41.9% of the vote, thus gaining 336 seats, compared to Labour’s share of the vote being only 34.4%, translating into only 271 seats. The Conservatives in 1992 received the highest number of total votes ever for any political party in any UK general election to date. Under the stalwart and adroit leadership of Mrs Thatcher and her sound convictions, three times had the far-left Labour party been defeated and now, for the fourth time in a row, by her successor, John Major.

Margaret Thatcher and her successor John Major, 
who between them defeated Labour in four consecutive General Elections. 

What could explain the unexpected result of 1992? One theory is the ‘Shy Tory factor’. That is: those who intended to vote Conservative were unwilling to disclose their intention to strangers. About 10% of Conservative voters who had made up their minds refused to disclose their intentions to pollsters before the election and therefore the polls indicated that a Labour victory was on the cards for April 1992. With the General Election now less than four months away, and with polls seemingly unable to provide suggestion of a real candidate to form a minority government let alone a majority government, questions might be asked as to whether the phenomenon of ‘Shy Tories’ continues. 

Recently, former Conservative MP Rob Hayward, who still aids the party, has found that at last year’s local and European elections, surveys underestimated the performance of the Conservative party and overestimated that of both Labour and UKIP. For the Euro Elections, there were six polls and, on average, the Conservative vote was understated by 2.2%, while the Labour vote had been overstated by 2.0%. Not only was this apparent in such elections, but even in five 2014 Westminster by-elections, Conservative support was understated by an average of 1.8% - a figure which could tip the balance on 7th May. Labour’s vote was overestimated by an average of 3.7%.

With such recent figures, it does suggest that this phenomenon may also be relevant currently in the forthcoming election. Given ‘Labour still isn’t working’, with the manifest weaknesses of Ed Miliband (not only superficially with regards to his image but also his proclivity to blunder, for example forgetting to mention such issues as the deficit and immigration at the latest party conference) now leaving him grasping on to Labour’s claim to be the Champions of the NHS, maybe more people in Scotland do in fact believe in Nessie than the Labour leader. As of 13th January 2015, 81% of Conservative supporters felt satisfied with Cameron as leader, compared to a mere 48% of Labour supporters with Miliband, according to an Ipsos-MORI poll. The fundamental question is whether or not Labour’s inherent defects will shine through to the electorate.

It would be arbitrary conjecture to surmise who might win this year’s election, given the present uncertainty (as well as the influence of my own political leanings and hopeful thinking) and with bets on who might win (currently) totalling £70. I will, however, say this: do not underestimate the support for, nor the credibility of, a majority Conservative or a Conservative-led Government after May this year. In order for the UK to continue to experience further economic growth, the necessary public sector cuts made, the trade unions reformed further, an EU referendum, and for individual British men, women and their families to prosper (greater tax cuts and reducing immigration) then let’s hope this is the case and that the result of the election on 7th May is nothing shy of a Conservative victory. 


  1. labour are not a far-left party...

  2. 'Under the stalwart and adroit leadership of Mrs Thatcher and her sound convictions, three times had the far-left Labour party been defeated and now, for the fourth time in a row, by her successor, John Major.' The Labour party was at this time far left, I never explicitly said they are still far left, although they are certainly drifting further to the left.

  3. Far left in a parliamentary party is pretty meaningless isn't it? After all if they are engaged in the bourgeois democratic process they're not very far anything.

  4. By that logic would you be inclined to say that Thatcher was not that right-wing (new right) comparatively in both her liberal economic and socially conservative policies, given she was the Leader of a Parliamentary party? " bourgeois democratic process" - It would be enlightening to hear your views on our democracy as well.


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