Just two weeks ago, senior Conservatives were saying that ‘crossover’ had been reached: that the Tories were ahead in the polls and that the lead would slowly build. Last week, the lead evaporated. Tomorrow, a YouGov/Sunday Times poll puts Labour four points ahead. Cameron’s bizarre pre-resignation on Monday and a rather lacklustre performance in what passed for the television debate on Thursday seems to have had an effect.
Sure, they were watched by only 3 million people vs. 10 million for the 2010 debates – but the word gets out. Jeremy Paxman performed very well, Ed Miliband quite well, Cameron less well. And yes, that’s the Cameron already talking about his retirement, as if he has already mentally checked out. The YouGov poll says Miliband performed better in those debates, by a 15-point lead (34/49) far wider than any of the immediate post-debate polls.
People in my line of work can sometimes talk as if a natural force of political gravity will pull Cameron over the line; that logic somehow dictates it. That Ed Miliband is just too daft to make it to No.10. But there is no data to back up this idea*. The Tories have thrown everything at this for the last five weeks; what makes us think they’ll have more luck in the next five?
So we could be six weeks away from an Ed Miliband government that could last five years.
And let’s remember a four-point lead for Labour puts it well over the finish line. Using the Electoral Calculus system and factoring in Scottish polls gives Labour a slim majority. But not so slim when you factor in that Alex Salmond now says the SNP would support Labour if Miliband were in danger. So on today’s polls, Red Ed is home and dry.
* With one caveat: Cameron is still ahead leadership and economic management; (see Economist graph, below). No Prime Minister has ever lost while being ahead on those two questions – but there’s a first time for everything.