This is interesting, politically
Tuesday, February 1st, 2005
From Independent Digital: (subscription fee required)
Lib Dems could win election, poll shows
By John Rentoul
The Liberal Democrats could break through to form a government with a big majority according to an exclusive opinion poll conducted for The Independent on Sunday.
Although 20 per cent of voters say they currently intend to vote for Charles Kennedy's party, 37 per cent of those surveyed agreed with the statement: “I would vote for the Liberal Democrats if they had a realistic chance of winning in my constituency”.
Those who say they would make the switch to the Liberal Democrats include 29 per cent of Labour supporters, 19 per cent of Conservatives and one-third of those backing other parties.
If people voted along these lines in winnable constituencies, Mr Kennedy would become Prime Minister with a majority of 126 over Labour, and the Conservatives would be reduced to a rump of 56 seats. Six current cabinet ministers would also lose their seats: Margaret Beckett, Charles Clarke, Patricia Hewitt, Alan Johnson, Tessa Jowell and Ruth Kelly.
The figures suggest the potential for meltdown in the electoral system if the Liberal Democrats can persuade voters in their target seats that they have a “realistic chance” of winning. And they reveal the extent to which Tony Blair's decision to join the invasion of Iraq has shaken the kaleidoscope of British politics.
The Liberal Democrats have already gained support at Labour's expense since the build-up to war in Iraq, but could yet gain more.
The British involvement in Iraq remains unpopular and there is strong support for bringing the troops home.
Can it happen? Probably not – but not definitely not.
This psephological quirk has been known to the Lib Dems for years – my 2001 election leaflet carried a graph based on it suggesting I was in with a real chance of being swept into Westminster, not a likely possibility given that I was building on a base of just nine per cent support in the constituency.
But it is a fact that if people thought we were in with a chance of winning, they would be more likely to vote for us. Usually we're on the losing end of this vicious circle – we don't get the votes that would allow us to win because we don't appear to be winning.
But if during the election the polls start to show a three-way tie – which, while not the likliest scenario, is wholly possible – then things could move pretty fast.
A good analogy would be trying to set upright a heavy wardrobe that had fallen over. It takes an enormous amount of energy to lift it even a small way at first, but eventually a point arrives when the centre of gravity shifts, momentum kicks in, and the job completes itself with ease.
Every election so far, we've lifted the wardrobe part of the way but not far enough. Can we go all the way this time? Probably not – but as this poll suggests, there's never been a better chance in my lifetime.