Labour dismisses the possibility of an early election at it’s peril….
This is a discussion that frequently seems to happen in Labour circles, whether the government will end-up going the full distance until 2015 or not. People may well say its an academic discussion which in some ways it actually is, because ultimately neither side can be proved to be correct until either 2015 or if the election happens earlier – year xxxx. However, on another it’s quite important because it colours how you see things like our current poll performance (obviously, if you think the next election is going to be in 2015 then our poll ratings a shade under 4 years south of the election day probably won’t matter that much, for example) and impacts upon other strategic considerations.
I belong in the ‘I don’t think the government can last the distance’ camp. This has nothing to do with the Liberal Democrats (though conventional wisdom usually assumes they are the most likely to bring the government down) but more to do with the combination of the Lib Dems and the Conservative right. I think the Conservative right never wanted the Lib Dems and was seriously brassed-off with their new partners by about the second day of the Coalition being in power. They would like nothing more than to bin them off at the earliest convenience – however, this would put them at odds with the Cameroons who actually quite enjoy the company of the Orange Book Lib Dems and can tolerate the social liberals.
Cameron and the people around him however are a small island in a vast sea of blue rinse; within the wider Party and in the Parliamentary Conservative Party which is notoriously Thatcherite. The blue-rinse brigade tolerate Cameron and his clique, they don’t love him or even like him and have more instinctive sympathy for figures such as David Davis. The fights Cameron is picking with the right, over same-sex marriage, Europe, etc, etc are done without a real base of support for him to draw on, so any one could be the straw that breaks the camels back. This is especially true if the Conservatives continue to poll roughly around where they have. They are not that far from Labour and could expect an incumbency bonus so would have to be in with a reasonable shout of an overall majority. Not only could the Conservatives get rid of the Liberal Democrats; they could knock Labour flat on it’s back.
Couple this tempting prospect with the frustration they are feeling and there is in fact good reason to believe an election could happen before 2015. This is not to mention the profound social disruption caused by strikes, riots, etc, etc all of which will increase the pressure on the Westminster elite to be seen to be responsive. Labour assumes that the election will be in 2015 automatically at its peril. It may come to pass that it is, but it has to recognise also the strong possibility that it could happen before, and if we are not ready they we may well slide to an even heavier defeat than the one in 2010 (no matter what the polls say).