...And Can Theoretical Physics Explain Labour's Slump the Polls?

Article excerpt

Can the power law of theoretical physics, as outlined above by Mark Buchanan, explain the movements of opinion polls and, in particular, the sudden and unexpected collapse of Labour support last month? Pollsters and commentators, to say nothing of ministers, admit that they are baffled. The big cause that people naturally look for seems to lie in the fuel crisis. But fuel prices had been rising for months, without any apparent effect on Labour's poll lead or ministers' personal popularity. Why did discontent come to a head at that particular moment? Why did the public give such instant support to the blockading truckers, and why did that translate into a sudden shift in the polls?

In many respects, the situation prior to the fuel crisis conforms to the "critical state" described by Buchanan. Accumulated discontents -- over the health service, pensions, the Dome fiasco and rising petrol prices -- created something very like the unstable rice pile that preoccupied the Brookhaven physicists. Each new grumble -- another bailout for the Dome or another price rise -- although small in itself, has the potential to trigger an avalanche. …