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Are we seeing the ending of the Tory voters’ strike?

September 12th, 2008

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    Why understanding 1997 is the key to the 2010 result?

There’s a widespread perception that in 1997 Tony Blair got his massive landslide victory because huge numbers of Tories switched. This is wrong and does not fit with the voting numbers – for Labour won even though it got fewer votes than Neil Kinnock secured five years earlier.

In 1992 Labour chalked up 11,559,735 votes. Five years later Tony Blair got in with his party getting a smaller number 11,348,623.

I draw attention to this because it helps us understand what is happening now.

    For the main voting dynamic behind Labour’s 1997 landslide was that a large number of Tory voters simply gave up on the party and went on strike. They didn’t switch – they just didn’t vote. The figures are stark – Tory votes 1992 – 14,092,891: Tory votes 1997 – 9,600,940

It’s that massive drop off in voting by former Tory supporters that was behind the very low turnouts in the 2001 and 2005 elections and it will be the return of many of them that will drive the Tory general election victory in 2010.

Now I acknowledge that a proportion of the 4.5m lost Tory votes between 1992 and 1997 might have gone to Labour - but there were not that many of them because, remember, Blair’s overall total was down.

Now the evidence from the polls and by elections is that the Tory vote strikers are returning. This means that the key electors who will decide the election are not switchers but are people who might not have turned out to vote for more than a decade and a half but are Tory by inclination.

    What strategy can Brown, or whoever is leading Labour, develop to stop such a movement. It’s hard to think of any measures that have a hope of being effective

For these electors, and there are several million of them, will do one of two things – stay on strike or vote Tory. Cameron’s great success is that he appears to be winning large numbers of them over.

The one factor that could undermine this analysis is if something happened that totally undermines confidence in the Tory leadership. It’s hard to see what that could be.

Whatever I’m back again risking shed-loads of cash in the commons spread-betting markets. I think I’m going to win.

UPDATE: I have made a cock-up with the numbers and have amended accordingly using GB totals for 1992 and English totals for 1997. The main point remains.

Mike Smithson






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