LONDON (Labour Buzz) - In the normal run of events, a party which has seen 100,000 deaths, the biggest recession for hundreds of years, and has been named and shamed in a report for continuous mistakes, might sweat on the polls.
However, according to the latest data from Opinium, things are looking pretty good for the Tories. They jumped four points to 41%, giving them a lead of three. Labour are down three points to 38%, with the Lib Dems on 7% and the Greens on 4%.
Even in a year in which self-inflicted crisis has followed the self-inflicted crisis, they are still up in the polls. Just imagine what happens, they will be saying to themselves if things start going well.
For Labour, there is some head-scratching to be done. They will be asking how they look at these figures. Here are a few options.
40% of turkeys will always vote for Christmas
The Tories have certainly had a bumpy time of it this year. However, throughout it all, they have maintained a floor of around 40%. No matter what happens, it seems, 40% of people will vote Tory. This is good news for Tory HQ. Incompetence has been quite a problem for this government. Knowing that 40% of people will brush off any catastrophe, no matter how bad, must come as a comfort.
A lot of people have taken the opportunity to blame Sir Keir Starmer. He has bent over backwards to be seen as moderate and appeal to people on the right. Unfortunately, it isn’t working. According to Labour insiders, just 4% of Tories have jumped ship in the last year, with most of Labour’s games coming from defecting Lib Dems. That, they fear, is nowhere near enough and if they manage to hold steady at the upcoming local elections, they will be delighted.
Many feel Starmer has abandoned his pledges made during the leadership election and has failed to nail the Tories where it hurts. This poll, and a few others, will be all the fuel they need. Inevitably, they soon had #starmerout trending on Twitter.
This is always a go-to option for many in the party. They will point out that the Tories have seen a 20-point lead evaporate in less than a year. From the decimation of the general election, Labour are running neck and neck. Some polls in recent times have even shown the Tories losing their majority, with one poll suggesting Boris Johnson could lose his own seat.
This is a long game, they will say. Starmer has made progress, but there is more to do. This was the optimistic line taken by the Guardian in its comment on his leadership. Phase one is complete. The Labour brand has been detoxified. The next stage is to develop a story about why Labour would be better for Britain than the Tories.
The Tories finally got something right
After a year of mishandling the pandemic, there has actually been some good news. The vaccine roll-out is generally being seen as a success, even if the decision to delay the second dose has been criticised by international experts, including the makers of the vaccine themselves.
The government is taking a risk and it hopes they are working. They secured orders of the Astra Zeneca vaccine early and haven’t been hit as badly by production problems by the EU.
Europe’s crass handling of the situation in which it threatened to stop the flow of vaccine into Northern Ireland hasn’t helped matters and has given them a chance to claim Brexit has finally had an upside.
They have been helped by a media which has largely given them a free pass over killing 100,000 people and the chaos hitting business and imports after Brexit.
Time for a coalition
Others have pointed to the need to work together with progressive parties. Labour is working at a distinct disadvantage against the Tories. While the governing party hoovers up almost every right-leaning vote, form the centre to far-right extremists, progressive voters have several parties to choose from.
The SNP dominates north of the border, while the Lib Dem and Greens tend to take between 10% and 14% of the vote between them. Even in 2019’s Brexit dominated the election, more people voted for progressives than voted for parties from the right. However, their failure to work together handed the election to the Tories.
That has to change and the data seems to back them up. According to Best for Britain, if Labour, the Greens and the Lib Dems work together they could all benefit. Boris Johnson would lose his seat and Starmer might gain 351 seats.
Too close to call
Overall, though, these polls are just one set which confirms the overall picture that things are too close to call. The top parties have been separated by no more than a few percentage points for months now. The Conservatives do seem to have an electoral floor of around 40%. To break that Labour will need to create a more compelling story which appeals to voters of all shades.
To do that they may need to work with other parties and acknowledges the electoral disadvantages they face. If they do that the electoral map could start to look much more positive.
(Written by Tom Cropper, edited by Klaudia Fior)