Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

THERE Is Now Less Than [...]

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

THERE Is Now Less Than [...]

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL LINFORD COLUMNIST

THERE is now less than a year now to go until a General Election which most pundits seem to agree will be the least predictable - as well as possibly one of the most seminal - of modern times.

Indeed, practically the only predictable thing about it is the date, set in stone by the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011, passed by the Coalition with the aim of binding itself together for the full five-year term.

Actually I rather miss all the old speculation about election dates that was part and parcel of political journalism in the days when the Prime Minister would seek to choose the date of maximum advantage for his or her party.

But barring a vote of no confi-dence in the government or a decision by two thirds of MPs to override the Act's provisions, voters will go to the polls on Thursday May 7, 2015.

According to one poll published this week, the election will be a dead heat, with both the Tories and Labour gaining 36% of the vote.

What this rather ignores is the weighted nature of the electoral system in favour of Labour; such a result would not in fact produce a dead heat at all, but would be very likely to produce to an outright majority for Ed Miliband.

History is also in Labour's favour: no incumbent Prime Minister has increased his party's share of the vote at a subsequent election since Harold Wilson in November 1974.

Even Margaret Thatcher failed to manage it, with the Tories' 144-seat landslide in 1983 disguising a fall in the party's overall voting share to 42% from a high watermark of 44% at the previous election in 1979.

Against that, the Tories hold what most political strategists believe is always the strongest card in an election campaign - an improving economy.

Despite the patchiness of the recovery, which has been barely felt north of Watford Gap, the Tories are perceived by many floating voters to have got the big economic decisions right and to have begun to clear up the "mess" inherited from Labour.

The Conservatives also believe that the 'presidential' nature of modern election campaigns will play to their strengths, with voters perceiving Mr Cameron as a more 'Prime Ministerial' figure than Mr Miliband. …

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