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My General Election call: A Conservative majority

May 23rd, 2008


    Why C&N gives me the confidence to come off the fence

In assessing the significance of the Crewe and Nantwich result for the next general election ask yourself this – when was the last time that the Tories took a seat off Labour in a by-election and then failed to win the subsequent general election?

The answer is Leyton in January 1965 which was held in the unique circumstances of a vacancy being created to provide a Commons seat for Labour’s Foreign Secretary who had lost his seat only three months earlier in the general election.

Leyton aside the record in modern times shows that Tory by election successes on the scale of Crewe and Nantwich have ALWAYS been followed by general election victories.

I know Labour chalked up four gains from the Tories in the 1987-1992 parliament and then lost. But, just like with the opinion polls, the party needs to be demonstrating much more emphatically than the Tories that it is on top before you can safely predict that it is going to take power.

The Conservative victories in 1970 and 1979 were both preceded by significant by election triumphs. Before C&N the last Tory gain from Labour was at Ilford North in 1978 when there was a swing of just 6.9%. Just compare that with the latest result of a 17.6% swing which, as Rod Crosby pointed out overnight was exactly the same as the 1977 Tory victory in Birmingham Stechford.

Unlike many pundits who like to qualify their forecasts, gamblers have to come to a firm view about how they risk their money. So unless there is a dramatic change in the political environment, such as a might just happen with a different Labour leader, I cannot see any other result than a Conservative overall majority – and this is how I am betting.

The C&N result was also further vindication of the “Golden Polling Rule” – that the most accurate survey is the one that shows Labour in the least favourable position. It has happened in the every single London mayoral race, at every general election of recent times and now at Crewe & Nantwich.

There were three by election surveys – ICM had Tory leads of 4% and 8% while the last, Comres has a 13% lead. The actual margin was 19%.

Mike Smithson






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