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Four reasons why Tory members are probably too upbeat about the political climate

By Tim Montgomerie

Last December I predicted that the Tories would be level-pegging with Labour by the end of the year. My colleagues' predictions are recorded here.

I now suspect that the Tories will probably be behind by at least 40% to 35%. Four things have caused me to change my mind:

  • The radicalism of the Coalition is welcome but the Cabinet is picking fights with so many groups - adding people in the NHS, for example, to the educational and policing establishments - that there is going to be blood on the carpet.
  • I hadn't expected Cameron to ringfence so much spending (adding many middle class welfare benefits to his protection of the NHS), necessitating bigger cuts in, for example, policing and defence budgets. These cuts will be starting to bite by this Christmas.
  • The Labour opposition is looking much more effective than I expected. Think Ed Balls v Michael Gove, John Prescott on NHS Direct and the whole Labour machine on Andy Coulson.
  • And, of course, we have a Coalition government that means David Cameron will be limited in what he can offer base Tory voters to compensate for tough spending settlements.

In the latest ConHome survey Tory members remain more optimistic than me about Tory prospects in the opinion polls:

  • 18% said they expected the Conservative lead over Labour to be greater than now.
  • 42% expected to be about 5%, the same as now.
  • 28% expect the parties to be neck-and-neck.
  • 9% expect Labour to be about 5% ahead.
  • 2% expect a 10% or so Labour lead.
  • Under 1% expect a more than 10% Labour lead.

I hope I'm wrong and grassroots Conservatives are largely correct but I worry that the scale of unpopularity is going to shock some party members.


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