David Miliband’s parting shot before leaving Britain was an interview with Andrew Marr where he argued that the Tories can win a majority at the next general election. At the same time, serious forces inside the Conservative Party argue that they have no hope of winning in 2015. They can’t both be right.
SEB has argued over a prolonged period that the Tory Party is in decline. In 2009 and 2010 articles published here correctly forecast that the Tories would be unable to gain an overall a majority, even though they had recently been running very strongly in the polls. From the same analysis it is possible to predict that the Tory vote will fall below the 36% secured at the last election and indeed the Tories will have difficulty in gaining substantially over 30% of the vote in 2015. As a result David Miliband is completely wrong, the Tories will be unable to form a majority government.
The analysis of the Tory decline is based on long-established trends. These trends reflect changes in British society and its role in the world. In effect the Tory party expanded beyond its strongholds in the shires - especially in the South and South-East excluding London - as Britain expanded its role in the world. As Britain’s imperial role declined and society altered, so too did the electoral support for the Tories, with some time lag. Tory electoral support is being pushed back to its original heartlands in the south outside of London.
The full basis for this analysis first appeared in 1983 in John Ross’s Thatcher and Friends. This can now be found in its entirety on this blog here. The chart below shows the declining trend in Tory support in actual general elections rather than opinion polls.
This key fact, so routinely ignored by innumerable political commentators now including David Miliband, was first identified in 1983. 30 years later it still holds true. If the Tories vote in 2015 were strictly on trend, and they suffer an electoral defeat, it will fall back to 30.3%.
The siren song of David Miliband, and others on the Labour right, that the Tories are most likely to win in 2015 is coupled to an argument that they only way to prevent this is for Labour to adopt Tory policies. This is entirely false. The consistent decline of the Conservative votes shows that Tory policies have been unattractive, not attractive, to voters. It has been Scottish and Welsh Nationalists, and the Liberal Democrats, that have gained votes. Labour’s recent swing towards Tory policies has therefore completely foreseeably led to no increase in support at all – but will demoralise a significant number of potential Labour supporters.
Miliband and the Labour right’s argument are pitted against not just the current opinion polls but against the whole post-war trend in Tory support.