Ok, let's talk about it: that YouGov poll last night wasn't too brilliant, was it? A two percent lead? Not very encouraging, right? OK, so it might be about the 400th poll in a row to show Labour behind the Tories, but of late we've been spoiled. We want bigger leads. We're not content to go from having fewer MPs than Michael Foot did at his nadir against Thatcher to turfing Labour out of government; no, we want one of the biggest turnarounds in modern electoral history. And with David Cameron and the rest of our leadership, poll numbers have led us to expect it.
But as I said in my last blog, now is the time for a bit of guts. For some self-belief. For some passion for what we are doing and what we stand for. For some fire to change this country, and, frankly, and I don't think this is an exaggeration, to rescue it.
Somebody's got to say it, so I will: YouGov's numbers are wrong. They are just simply flat-out wrong. They do not pass the smell test. According to YouGov, in a period that has been wall-to-wall bad news for Labour - from the Unite BA strikes to Stephen "Buyers" eight grand a day taxi - Labour have gone up and the Tories have gone down. Ah, sure, ok there guys. Now, I do not allege any nonsense about bias from Peter Kellner. That is just pathetic and unworthy of any serious discussion. Where was the bias when YouGov correctly (under its old methodology) predicted the London Mayoralty? Nowhere.
But why fix what's not broken? The firm's new methods are coming up with some very weird numbers, often big outliers versus other polls. Crowdsourcers over at political betting have run YouGov's unweighted numbers for the prior 4% lead poll. According to them, those numbers were Con 42, Lab 28. Any weighting system that takes a 14% lead and magics it into a 4% lead, is for want of a better word, dodgy.
YouGov is not only outlying versus other firms, but even itself. Its recent poll for London showed the Tories a huge 9% ahead in London (where Labour traditionally have the advantage). That is simply incompatible with a 2 or even 4% national lead. The polls must have had different weightings. Mike Smithson, magisterial editor of political betting, has promised a thread on this later and i will be intrigued to see what he says.
By reason of their frequency, YG polls drive the debate sometimes. Recent polls by other firms have had us at 9%, 11%, 8%, 7%, etc. They are literally all over the place. We have to ignore the disparity and we have to get on with it.
I am fighting the marginal seat of Corby & East Northamptonshire. It's a bellwether, having gone with the winner of the general election ever since it was created in 1983, expected to go Labour, and actually went Tory by a few hundred votes. Let me tell you what it's like on the ground, in the marginals. We believe we're going to win. Not just in Corby, but in the country. Canvassing in Raunds this week, or at a series of public meetings and coffee mornings I'm holding almost daily round the constituency, we see waverers firming up for the Tories, our own voters determined to come out and to bring their friends. Activists are papering the seat with literature. Offers of support are flooding in. The momentum is palpable. My opponent is refusing to take a position on major planning issues like nuclear dumps and windfarms, and shuns public meetings, sending a letter instead. It's almost like Labour have given up.
We, on the other hand, are taking the fight to Labour. Public meetings are being set up in their strongest core areas in central Corby, and in swing towns like Irthlingborough and Raunds. I am happy to go to wards which are considered crimson red and face voters who are still angry at Margaret Thatcher for her battle with the unions. You have to fight; you have to ask for their vote.
Locally, our party has always had this attitude - that enough is enough. In the county elections in June, we fought hard in tough central Corby wards, nominating local candidates and leafleting in so-called 'hopeless' areas. Well, we didn't win outright, but as an example, the Shire Lodge ward saw Labour's majority reduced from around a thousand to around two hundred. Their vote shrunk but ours also went up (8% across Corby itself). In Irthlingborough, once a banker for Labour in this seat, we now have all four district councillors and ten out of twelve town councillors. At those county elections, Irthlingborough returned a Conservative councillor with a a bigger majority than that of the more prosperous market town of Oundle.
OK, but the national poll position has dropped since the summer, you will say. True. It has. This is a general election. Of course Labour are firming up. But we outperformed the national polls then and we will outperform them now. In 2007, when there was the short-lived Brown bounce, I wrote that our local Corby team were itching to go and were a million miles away from the headless chickens screeching on the blogs.
That was true then. It's still true now. How I wish we'd had that election in 2007. We'd have won it. Weeks of David Cameron on TV, against Gordon Brown? He beats him every day of the week and twice on Sundays. If we'd had the election in 2007 we would not now be signed up to the Lisbon treaty. We would have saved the lives of soldiers who need equipment. Our educational decline would have been stopped. Deficits and debt levels enough to bankrupt our grandchildren would have been prevented. In his do-nothing Budget, Darling once more kicked the problem into the long grass. David Cameron and George Osborne are ready to tackle our debts, to fix our society, to free up the police, to give local people control of their own areas, to control immigration, to restore the military covenant, to protect the countryside, and to pass a budget for business growth and jobs.
Our slogan then was Change, Optimism, and Hope. That's a wonderful slogan. It's what our country desperately needs. It's what Tory candidates, activists and voters are going to deliver in this general election. Let's show some steel, people. No complacency, but lots of hard work.
There will be a reward. We are going to wake up on May 7th and watch David Cameron go the Palace. And it will not be a day too soon.