There was a day last week when an Ashcroft poll put the Tories six points up over Labour, while a Populus poll had Labour five points up on the Conservatives. An eleven point swing during one twenty-four hour period not surprisingly had commentators wondering about why the polling had gone all wacky on us. This week, we have both Ashcroft and an ICM poll showing the Greens with very high numbers all of a sudden – 11% in one case.
Amidst all the confusion, there does appear to be two identifiable trends however: one, the Labour lead continues to shrink; two, the vote share for the two largest parties appears on course for an all time low. Whether that holds up on May 7th itself is one of the big questions this election poses.
Looking back to the view from 2010, it wasn’t supposed to be like this. The Lib Dems going into coalition was supposed to re-strengthen the two party system. Instead, we’ve seen UKIP, and latterly the Greens getting the upside as opposed to the Labour Party as imagined.
Both of the two main parties are faced with huge, crushing problems. There is Labour’s SNP problem in Scotland, which is a problem even if the Nats polling numbers dip, as resource will have to be pulled away from other parts of the country to fight previously safe Labour seats as we speak. I don’t think Labour as are as trusted on the NHS as they think either. The ICM poll revealed that a majority of people feel that any of the changes made to Health Service this parliament “would have happened under any government”.
Then there is the “silent Tories” problem for Labour. This hasn’t been a real issue for a long time, but I think with Labour moving to the left (or having been perceived to have done so), I can see a reasonable number of people who wouldn’t tell pollsters right this second they will vote Tory ending up doing so come the general election.
But the Tories have huge problems as well, having nowhere to grow, other than trying to take as many Lib Dem facing seats as possible. They seemingly got all of the seats available to them in the 2010 general election, and governing parties find it almost impossible to pick up seats in the best of circumstances anyhow. With UKIP polling over 10%, this would not be considered the best of circumstances by a long stretch.
The voting system will be put under severe strain by six party politics. But there’s no way to change that in the near future due to the result of the AV referendum. What we see before us is a political system that is riddled with problems and no solutions. No wonder those who simple want to junk it all seem to be so listened to at present.