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I think this is a very important question to ask although Cameron would be wise to wait a few months before making a strong decision one way or the other. By March or April next year we will know if the Tories are getting close to the mid-forties in the opinion polls. if not we will need to get more radical with policy.


I would say it will be more like 1979, with a new exciting leader taking over from a tired Labour Government with an incompetent Prime Minister who was chosen mid-term and a struggling economy.I also think the result will probably resemble 1979 more closely than 1992 or 1997.

London Tory

Comparisons to 1992 are irrelevant, because of Kinnock. Despite all of his manifest failings, polls still show that Brown is seen as a credible leader. The same could never be said of the Welsh Windbag, who could have been 30 points ahead in the polls the day before polling- and would still have lost.

The Tories probably deserved to lose in 1992, and considering what was to come from 1992-1997, Labour would have taken us into the ERM and busted the economy, Brown would have replaced John Smith as Chancellor in 1994 when he died, and Portillo would have won the election for us in 1997, sparing us 10 years of Blair.

If only.....

Sally Roberts

There is of course a third scenario and that is a narrow victory for the Conservatives. I suspect that is the most likely outcome!

It would have been better to lose in 1992

I rather suspect that unless the economy is already in freefall by 2010 this will not be a good election to win.

stephan shakespeare

Re: Sally Roberts

"There is of course a third scenario and that is a narrow victory for the Conservatives. I suspect that is the most likely outcome!"

I agree with that and should have said it in the piece. I think the situation is very hard to predict because of the volatility in the polls but if pushed I'd agree that a narrow Conservative victory is the best bet. What should the strategy then be for the new year? Caution or boldness?

Alan S

In terms of a bold policy: Both Giuliani and Sarkozy have proposed hiring only half as many public sectors as those who retire/ resign. That seems the most painless way of bringing public sector employment under control.

James Burdett

I think we should be boldly cautious or cautiously bold. I think that we need to take our opportunities as they arise and also create the space for an opportunity. In some ways we should ignore the election as it will take care of itself in a number of respects, the party should instead continue to develop the intellectual ballast, the philosophical approach that will serve Conservatism for a lot longer and will ensure that instead of being just an election winning machine we actually are a credible and effective government.

Robert McIlveen

1964 surely - a big swing by an opposition with an electoral mountain to climb producing a tiny majority...

Tony Makara

Much will depend on how deep the economic turndown is come the time of the election. People have been prepared to support Labour while credit has been easily available, while they can spend freely and while the value of property has increased.

However now that all these features of Gordon Brown's tick-economy are over the voters will sense a real sea-change in economic fortunes, changes that will personally touch their lives.

I suspect Labour will suffer a landslide defeat, the longer Brown hangs on, the worse it will be. November was the last chance Brown had to win an election. He bottled it, he blew it. Now he has no way back.


If the economy is suffering at the next election as pretty much all analysis suggests it will be, then a re-run of 1979 is in the offing with the 'vision', credibility and competence of Labour all in ruins. The country would not expect an incoming Tory government to stick to Labour's spending plans because so many people will be in financial trouble that cutting taxes and government spending will be blindingly necessary.

DC would be wise to keep his powder dry. Until it is obvious which way the economic winds are blowing it would be folly to make too many economic policy statements which would then need to be modified or retracted.

Tony Makara

If Brown continues to struggle in the polls it will be interesting to see if any schisms open up in the Labour party and how that effects their standing. Surely if Brown does not close the gap, which in reality has been a 22% away from Brown, then their will be real dissension over the direction of the party? I can't believe that a party with the electoral fighting instincts of Labour will simply roll over and die with Gordon Brown at the helm.

Edison Smith

A few of the responses on here show a little bit of the ol' hubris setting in! There is simply no way there can be any resting of laurels. It's impossible to predict exactly what will happen at the next election.

So everyone should stop trying to predict, and instead get their heads down to ensure their wishes come true at the next GE.

Brown is down but is in no way out. Although leading in the polls, an election today would still most probably only give the Tories a 20-seat majority, if a majority at all. The electoral system is stacked against us. Therefore there should be no let-up until polling day - there is still an electoral Everest to climb.

I think Labour will stay loyal to Brown right up to a GE, even if it looks like he would lose. There'd still be enough cowardice in the Labour ranks, and enough doubt as to the projected electoral result (governments often get late swings, like in 1992, especially if the economy is all over the place) to save him from an ousting.

Growing economic problems may even play into Brown's hands. When people are nervous, they often stick with the devil they know. He will get a slight bounce from his latest Iraq announcement, you mark my words. It's easy for him to be rewarded with a poll bounce - because the Tory vote over 32% is still very soft. It's still easier for Labour to re-woo the floaters than it is for the Tories to keep them, in my opinion.

Tony Makara

Edison Smith, I agree fully that there is no room whatsoever for complacency. The Conservative vision-for-change theme must be pushed to the fore because the Labour think-tank is empty and the current administration does not have the radical edge needed to come up with a change of direction. Voters need to understand that voting Labour will bring stagnation and no change. The case for renewal must be put forward by all Conservative speakers at every opportunity and contrasted with the stale and stagnant Labour approach. Labour in office have become lazy, they have stopped being hungry for change.


I'm not so sure about this 'devil you know' angle if things get rough. If the economy tanks people will be short of money and worried about their jobs.

What will 'the devil you know' be able to offer them? Tax cuts? I doubt it. Slashing government spending? No chance. Lowering interest rates so far that inflation roars into view? Possibly.

DC will HAVE to offer a shrinking government and lower taxes and be able to make the economic case for doing so.

Naturally those dependent upon a government cheque will be up in arms and those on the left will be shrieking about an attack on 'the vulnerable'.

It will turn into a very heated debate about ideologies and like I said earlier, I reckon we'll have a re-run of 1979.


A really interesting and thought-provoking article - thank you.


I've only been alive for 16 years so no memory of 1979 is available to me! I would say, despite the polls being in Tory favour, that I think if there were a general election soon Labour would win by a small majority.

If the economy continues this downward spiral (and I think that growth will be less than previously predicted but that some have been far too pessimistic in their forecasting) then the 'competence' Brown is seen to have handled the economy with will be viewed as a farce. As it certainly should be! But not only will things have to continue to be terrible for Labour, the Conservatives will also have to (like you said) set out a clean 'vision' (Oh Lord, why did I choose that word?) or new programme for the country.

On things that really matter. Most people won't care about insults about being a 'Mr. Bean'. They'll care about public services, etc. That's where the attention should be put.


Stephan Shakespeare "much safer to realise that Brown still holds some strong cards and could win, and that therefore something special is required from DC every week."

The capacity for Labour's spin machine to do its work should never be underestimated. In the past week for example Labour's friendly hacks have sucessfully said that Brown is not in as bad a position as Major and inferred that he is not as sleazy, and they have tried to drag Ashcroft into their pit of corruption. Due to the lack of challenge about this position that has in turn allowed the spin machine today to put out aspirational nonsense about windfarms (basically just a review, but the BBC reported it as unprecedented), Schools (again a review, but Balls started lecturing Parents across all channels about their inability to Parent - that is despite his and his governments record of incompetence in any responsible area), Finally Brown in Iraq and Afghanistan posing with troops (despite the fact that nobody in the military believes he has any interest in the army unless there is need of a photo-op. Cameron's team needs to remember that Labour has no sense of decency at all, therefore will say absolutely anything and will always be favoured by the BBC, Rawnsley, Hames, Riddell, Toynbee, Ashley etc etc the list is neverending. Cameron's team need to rebuff constantly, at the same time if we are to keep and extend the lead in the polls then it is essential that Cameron shows a brighter future is possible for people. I have set out many times on this site what policies I believe are needed for that future, but localism, work-life balance, greater responsibilty for the individual at work and in life are just a few that come to mind that people will really see as a change in their lives.

Yet Another Anon

The past 3 General Elections haven't been much like any others there have been previously.

I still think the Liberal Democrats will slip back in terms of percentage votes and numbers of seats, Labour and the Conservatives will see big gains in total votes - Labour holding or increasing it's majority and the Conservatives gaining some seats too - I doubt any party will get even 13 milion votes though, it will be enough for David Cameron to continue as leader, probably enough for Chris Huhne or Nick Clegg to continue as Liberal Democrat leader and fight on as Paddy Ashdown did after 1992 and Gordon Brown to continue as Labour PM and aim to get 10 years as PM before retiring. Probably in the order of Labour 39% Conservative 34% Liberal Democrat 17% UKIP 3% Nat 2%

I still think David Cameron will be succeeded in 2014 by a more vigorous leader who will take a far more socially Conservative position seeing UKIP reuniting with the Conservatives and sweep to power at some point between 2018 and 2024 withdrawing the UK from The EU and aiming to end the permissive society and unite religious Conservatives from Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and Sikhism with a smaller state and restoration of Capital Punishmenyt People are getting sick of there being a succession of Liberal Conservative and Liberal Labour governments, they want intolerance of anti-social behaviour and someone ruthless to sort the country out - Priti Patel perhaps?


I agree that the best way to throw away the next election is complacency.

We need to kick Brown while he is down, but to do it in a calm and statesman like manner. If we continue to apply pressure for the next three years without let up, Brown is toast. It needs everyone to be firing on all cylinders though, not just David Cameron.

Iain Dale had a post comparing the front benches, highlighting the massive difference in talent. We need to make that show.

Joe James Broughton

"considering what was to come from 1992-1997"

Rubbishing our record in office is quite ugly.
I was opposed to the ERM, but 90% of the 1990-92 recession we would have had anyway, to kill inflation.
We were chucked out at the right time, and
the economy performed well afterwards.

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