Just like the way March is a turning point in the weather as the seasons transition from winter to spring, March is also the political turning point in the year – as at the end of the month the General Election campaign officially begins and the electioneering hits fever pitch.
Over the last month, the Conservatives have closed the nationwide gap between themselves and Labour to make what seemed as though it would be a close General Election into a dead heat. Voters simply do not have faith in Ed Miliband as a potential Prime Minister or trust the Labour party to continue growing the economy. Labour’s vote is holding relatively steady in England though, and that is what is keeping them just slightly ahead in my forecast, but for any realistic chance of them being the largest party they need to make sure that this is their lowest point if not it could be a painful defeat.
One thing that might help Labour is the debates, as David Cameron’s announcement that he will appear at only one of the three scheduled may give Miliband a chance to improve his image and, with that, the fortunes of Labour. Although voters blame Cameron for not taking part in the debates even though they want him to, that hasn’t transferred into any changes in voting intention yet. The change might come though if Miliband does well in the debates, which is highly probably in relative terms because expectations of his performance are so low that even an okay night could play well for him. A good Miliband showing against a Cameron who has absconded from his duties to show off his party’s agenda could give him the bounce he needs to secure the keys to Downing Street.
So here’s the current state of play across Great Britain in terms of polls (with change from last month in brackets), and the current seat forecast:
|32% (+1)||33% (-)||8% (+1)||15% (-1)||6% (-)||5% (-1)|
In Scotland the situation stays much the same as it has for months, with the SNP in a big lead over Labour. We’ve seen more Ashcroft polling now from constituencies that voted No in the referendum which shows that the massive swings towards the party are holding true across the land. Out of all the constituencies polled in Scotland by Ashcroft so far, only Willie Bain’s Glasgow North-East seat and Jim Murphy’s East Renfrewshire seat would be held, and the leads both men have are far from comfortable. The question since the referendum has been when will support for the SNP slow down, but after four months and plenty of time for Jim Murphy to turn the Labour Titanic around there appears to be no changing the levels of support the SNP are enjoying.
Here’s the Scottish poll breakdown and the seat forecast:
|45% (-1)||28% (+2)||16% (+2)||5% (-1)||3% (-1)||3% (-)||0% (-1)|
Of course, these trends are now very much up for change as the campaigning begins in earnest – and the launch of manifestos at the start of next month and the start of the debates give a jolt to the polls as the legions of undecided and swaying voters firm up their intentions ahead of May the 7th.
There have been two new Holyrood polls out in the last month, both showing much the same story that has gone before – with the headlines being a slight swing towards the SNP in the constituency vote and a slight swing away from them in the regional vote. Despite the massive gains they look set to make at Westminster, their performance in Holyrood looks just slightly weaker than in 2011 at the moment, with the forecast of actually losing their majority by a seat, although technically with the Presiding Officer’s casting vote they would be able to maintain a single-party Government. The Greens, of course, are the big winners – with a big surge in their support in the regional vote leading them to be on course to comfortably overtake the Lib Dems in representation.
Here are the current polling figures (with change from last month in brackets) and seat forecasts:
|49% (-2)||27% (+1)||13% (+1)||5% (-)||2% (-)||3% (+1)||0% (-)|
|41% (-2)||24% (-)||14% (+1)||6% (+1)||4% (-)||10% (+1)||2% (-1)|
We’ve also had another independence poll from YouGov which shows a narrow majority would continue to vote No – although like most of the polls since the referendum the result falls within the margin of error. Although there is definitely a sense of the support for independence maintaining ground, I think the gains that it is sometimes thought to have made are offset by the fact that we again have a number of voters undecided on the issue – and chances are that they would again break towards No in the event of any new referendum.
Here are the details of that YouGov poll:
So while the chill is still in the air and the polls do seem much the same, there is a palpable sense that things might just be about to change in the world and in politics too.