David Cameron just lost the 2015 election…

29th January, 2013 5:34 pm

…don’t worry I haven’t lost the plot. I’m certainly not predicting an outright Labour win at the next election – we’re miles from that point yet. But Cameron’s chances of winning an outright majority in the 2015 are now distinctly remote following his failure to get his own gerrymandering boundary changes through parliament.

Lets take a look at the numbers. On the current boundaries, George Eaton notes that the Tories will need a poll lead of 11 points to win a majority at the next election. At present – despite Cameron’s limited EU bump – Labour still has a lead of at least 5 to 6 points in the polls. Even if you think Labour’s poll lead is a little soft (which, for the record, I do) it’s a different leap of faith entirely to believe that a 16 point turnaround in the polls is likely in the next two years, especially with UKIP snapping at Cameron’s heels.

Consider the position the Tory Party is in at the moment. This is a party that oudln’t win on these boundaries pre-cuts and with Gordon Brown as the most unpopular Prime Minister in living memory as their opponent. They’re divided (not just on Europe, but on a number of touchstone issues, including Gay Marriage which is voted on next week), as long as the economy continues to tank they can’t plan for pre-election giveaways and their reputation for basic competence is shot (see today’s Philip Hammond Mali cock-up for only the most recent example). There are certainly few Labour people would swap places – electorally that is – with their Tory counterparts at the moment.

This doesn’t look like a party that can get a majority, even when Labour are struggling. And if they don’t get a majority, then they have (by definition) lost the next election. That’s not to say that Labour will win – there must be no complacency on the Labour side over the next election. The bounce back required from Ed Miliband and his party is unprecedented in the modern era. A still possible outcome of the next election is another Tory/Lib Dem coalition. That would be unpalatable to the Tory Party, and would almost certainly be the end of Cameron’s reign as PM (the Tories loathe losers, never mind double losers).

Besides a small majority – which only hell, high water or a popular foreign war look likely to deliver – there’s no longer any real route to victory for Cameron. That’s why he was willing to afce a difficult and embarrassing defeat in the Commons today – he needed to take a shot at it because he has no other choice.

There are numerous Labour people who deserve credit for halting the Tory boundary changes. Although I think Labour should have stuck to their guns and defended the principle of Lords Reform, the outcome has been something of a strategic blinder for Sadiq Khan, as his assessment that the Lib Dems would drop boundary changes without Lords Reform has been proved spot on. If Khan fails to deliver on Lords Reform in possible future Labour government no-one will be more angry with him than me, but today, he deserves a pat on the back. So too do Labour’s Lords – especially Garry Hart (who spotted the opportunity for an amendment) and Lords Whip Steve Bassam, who marshaled the vote in the Lords than got us to this stage. Similarly Labour advisers in both the Lords and the Commons (especially in the whips office) have earned the celebratory drinks they will no doubt be enjoying tonight.

The final question that remains is how Labour should proceed with future reforms around parliamentary boundaries. My personal preference is for Labour to introduce a comprehensive set of boundary changes of their own. But that…is a blogpost for another day…

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  • Monkey_Bach

    Those that live by the sword (or the lie) die by the sword (or the lie). When the Labour Party next forms a government it should be wise enough and humble enough to remember this and try to do better next time for all rather than some. Eeek.

  • trotters1957

    I have believed for a while that the Tories will get more votes than any other party at the next election, but that doesn’t translate into seats as they are concentrated in less constituencies.

    I can see Cameron getting 38-40% of the popular vote with some help from disaffected Libdems who can’t vote Labour.

    That would leave Labour with 35-37% and the Libdems on 15%-17%.

    Labour would be the biggest party in the Commons but very close to a majority but may be not quite.

    The Scottish independence vote will be crucial to Labour. If the Scots Nats lose, more Scottish voters are likely to come home to Labour.

    Fascinatingly, Labour may need the Scots Nats to make up a majority in Westminster.

    • reformist lickspittle

      I think that prediction of the Tory share (from 37% in 2010) is distinctly optimistic. It assumes no leakage to UKIP, for a start – and ignores the incontrovertible fact that the last time the Tory percentage increased after being in government was the 1950s…….

      (and the last time anybody did it was Wilson in the second 1974 GE)

    • rekrab

      Trotters 1957! Brilliant and it’s an idea that we can all work on.

    • Amber_Star

      If you take the independence vote out of the picture, Labour & SNP values are very similar. There’s a few Labour/SNP councils & (apart from a bit of friction about the SNP’s council tax freeze) the coalition councils seem to be working well together.

      I think the SNP would be quick to provide confidence & supply – or form a coalition – were Labour to need their votes come 2015. The reason being, if the SNP let in a Tory-led coalition by refusing Labour, it would be game over for them; they’d lose at least half of their Holyrood support!

      • aracataca

        Genuine question: I’ve always been under the impression that the SNP are a bit like the Fibs. ‘Left wing’ in Labour constituencies and right wing in Tory/rural constituencies with the only unifying thread being a commitment to independence. Is this incorrect?

    • The likelihood of the Tory vote increasing next time is very small

      • trotters1957

        The Tories are already low 30’s in the polls and governments usually increase their share in the run up to the election.

  • Gabrielle

    A still possible outcome of the next election is another Tory/Lib Dem coalition.

    What, after Cameron’s UKIP pandering promises of an in/out referendum on Europe?

    • Jeremy_Preece

      And there will be probably less than half of the current crop of LibDem MPs after the next GE

      • robertcp

        Another Tory/Lib coalition is probably the best possible outcome for the Tories but they are too stupid to realise it.

  • Gabrielle

    My hunch is that Cameron was hoping for an election *before* 2015, once he’d got his gerrymandering sorted out and before the economy completely tanks.

    I don’t think he wants to be PM any more. He’d thought it would be more fun than this (I really do believe he is that shallow). When he signed up for it in 2005 the good times were still rolling. Despite the fact that he and his cabal have made the most of a crisis, using ‘austerity’ as an excuse to cut back on everything that makes this nation civilised so as the rich could fill their boots, he really wanted to be a combination of Princess Diana and Tony Blair.

    When he failed to win the election in 2010, he actually thought his government would slowly win people over. He has signally failed to do that.

    • Except the new boundaries were specifically NOT to come in before the 2015 election – if he called a new election any time before May 2015 (and bear in mind that he made that a bit more difficult than usual) then it would be on the existing boundaries.

      • Gabrielle

        Well, I wouldn’t have put it past him to find a way round that. But that’s all academic now.

        If Dave does one good thing during his miserable tenure as PM, it would be to call a General Election this year.

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      You keep repeating this evil tory plan to go for an early election. Did you miss the big new law about fixed term Parliaments that the tories introduced only 2 years ago?

      Ergo, your paranoia is misplaced.

  • NT86

    His attempts to woo over the DUP seemingly fell apart too. Looks like the Tories were very badly isolated today (btw, any indication as to how Nadine Dorries voted?). While the Lab/Lib Dem team up was already known, I didn’t actually anticipate how many members of smaller parties would join them. SNP, Plaid Cymru did, as well as Caroline Lucas and George Galloway. I’m assuming that Sylvia Hermon did. There were 292 votes in favour, so 11 Tories either opposed or abstained. Wonder how the party whips will react to them.

    • reformist lickspittle

      Naomi Long (Alliance, Belfast E) was the sole non-Tory MP on the losing side. On the face of it surprising, as she normally votes with the LibDems – but I suspect that self interest might have played a part here 😉

    • Amber_Star

      Nadine voted with the Tories.

      • Gabrielle

        Nadine voted with the Tories.

        Nads being quite calculating there. She correctly surmised that the vote was lost anyway and that she’d show a bit of party loyalty, despite the fact that she’d have been making herself *unemployed if there was any chance of the government winning the vote.

        I thought when she appeared on Question Time recently she was very carefully toeing the party line – that is, coming out with the usual moronic lies about Labour causing a global banking crash etc, ad nauseum.

        When she thought she was going to lose her constituency, she gave Dave and Osbo both barrels with her denouncement of them ‘arrogant posh boys who don’t know the price of milk … who have no passion to understand the lives of others’. She was absolutely right, and it’s a bit of shame she’s reverted back to party drone. It’s one of those political quotes, like Anne Widdecombe’s ‘something of the night’ that really stay in the mind.

        * Her constituency, Mid Beds, was for the chop …. as was Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam (oh for Cleggy’s Portillo moment!)

        • Jeremy_Preece

          They should have left her in the jungle. However she seems now to be destined for the desert!

    • Amber_Star

      4 Tories voted with Labour.

      • Jeremy_Preece

        Yes, and that I find more interesting that the LibDem voting.
        The Tory splits are beginning to really show through.

  • Gabrielle

    Some very unhappy Tory bunnies tonight:

    The Lib Dems were bitterly attacked by Tory MP Penny Morduant, who was a Lords reform rebel last year, who said they were motivated by “spite, pettiness and self-interest”.

    She said the Lib Dems “code of conduct” amounted to “an eye for a coalition eye” and they were now giving “flirtatious glances” across the Commons to Labour.

    “The Liberals have exchanged their legendary sandals for flip-flops in the hope that it will enable them to keep their options open,” she said.

    Hilarious. If anyone wanted to sum up the Tories in three words it would be spite, pettiness and self-interest. Well done Pen.


  • Dave Postles

    It looks like it will all unravel this year. There’s a mass exodus from the pound, which is falling against the euro. As a result there will be an uptick in inflation. It’s unlikely that the collapse of the pound against the euro will facilitate exports as demand in the eurozone is weak.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    You have to have some little degree of sympathy for the tories, as their plan does have technical merit, and yet has been “blown away” by the brutal realities of politics.

    After all, what is undemocratic or gerry-mandering about equally sized constituencies, the boundaries of which decided by an independent panel? The result of this Commons vote will see not a gerry-mandering, but a perpetuation for another election of a current system in which one party is given great advantages. And what is so wrong with asking voters to register individually, so lessening the chances of domineering male patriarchs from controlling the votes of their households? If you turn it around – imagine that Labour were the current “losers” from such a system, can you imagine the outrage on LL?

    My own view is that while Labour will profit from these events, and will be happy to do so, the Party needs to have in place a very robust defence of either the status quo, which seems indefensible, or some intelligent alternative. Possibly based upon the census, but that only happens every 10 years.

    Simply arguing that a demonstrably flawed current system of unequal constituencies, and within that a patriarchal system open (and proven to be open) to abuse should be “the way that it is” is untenable. It is also pretty “un-Labour” to defend a system of patriarchy. That is tory behaviour.

    In practical terms, in 2018 the current census will be 7 years out of date, and the boundary review 5 years out of date. Irrespective, the pace of social movement will have continued, and the current boundaries be even more out of kilter. A boundary review, even on existing (650) numbers of MPs takes a few years, so any new 2018 review will not affect the 2020 election.

    If it is the Labour position to state – or “fart” – in the face of the electorate “we know we get an effective extra 5-8% of seats because our natural voters are lazy “so and so’s” and cannot be bothered to register their change of addresses, and some of them get told by their grandfather how to vote, and we like this because it works for us”, well expect some democratic trouble.

    • Chilbaldi

      The problem with the Tory proposals was that it was done off currently registered voters and therefore missed millions of potential voters as described above. Also, that it didn’t take into account citizens who cannot vote, such as some immigrants. These people still need to be represented, even if the electorate is ‘unequal’.
      I agree that an alternative to the status quo needs to be proposed. A once a decade review of constituencies according to the cencus seems ok (although the Tories wanted to get rid of the census), but I don’t think constituencies need to be dead equal across the board. The only other way would be to have compulsory voter registration for all.

    • robertcp

      Jaime, FPTP is a joke whichever way the boundaries are distributed.

  • Daniel Speight

    I wonder if a SNP loss on independence would hurt them that much in the next general election. Can Labour really count on a good return of Scottish seats at the next election?

    • rekrab

      Good question, the Independence idea will continue no matter what the outcome is.Labour missed the boat on devo max and should have embraced some of the SNP policies. I tend to think that where labour fails in Scotland the SNP will take up the slack and that could mean more SNP MP’s in Westminster come the GE.Scotland may decline Independence but it wont abandon voting for SNP policies.

    • Chilbaldi

      It pays to look at the 2010 GE results where Labour did very well in Scotland, only to collapse in the 2011 Holyrood elections where the SNP of course achieved the first ever majority of any party in Holyrood.

      Without wishing to encourage complacency, 2010 shows that Scots will vote Labour nationally in order to get a Labour government, and recognise the futility of voting SNP in such circumstances. Furthermore there were seats won by Labour in 2010 fairly safely, which were then quite safe SNP seats in 2011.

      So quite a funny, uncertain time for politics in Scotland – but there isn’t too great a cause for concern with the Westminster seats… yet.

  • I’d like to see the principle of boundaries based on population, given that casework is often driven by that factor. It would also pinpoint the areas where registration is low

  • Hugh

    I’m glad you struck through “gerrymandering”, otherwise you’d have to have explained why the proposals were less fair than the current system, which I don’t think would have been pretty.

  • Mick Lawrence

    Just throwing a spanner in the works here! just suppose that UKIP are not and never have been after the Tory vote, instead they collude to play good cop bad cop with Dave and Co, to end up with an EU referendum. But before that they will sneakily and aggressively stealthy campaign for the Labour and Lib Dem vote. Hence moving the country towards a Tory/UKIP coalition. I can’t think of anything worse!!!!!!!!!!

    • reformist lickspittle

      UKIP would have to get some MPs first…….

      • Mick Lawrence

        Not necessarily, they only have to reduce the Labour and Lib Dem vote in marginal seats. My worry is that Labour will ignore the posibility that UKIP and the Tories will work together, and not against each other. Even though it may not look like they are.

  • Charlie_Mansell

    Spot on about reform of the Lords. I thought we missed a chance at the time, but Sadiq and co did understand the wider picture, so massive credit to them. I think we are increasingly heading for a second hung parliament. The Tories could still yet be the largest party, so we cannot afford complacency and think it is in the bag. Also I would be surprised if the Lib Dems got less than 40 and perhaps even 45 seats. As ICM (the best pollster for the Lib Dem vote) shows when Don’t knows are pressed they go back to the Lib Dems and in their target seats (especially the Lib Dem Tory battlegrounds) the Lib Dems will be pressing hard with relatively good resources and up to half their membership living in or around those better seats.

  • I’m loving the sight of tories incandescent with impotency as much as the next person.
    But it has to be said that blocking the introduction of democracy to
    the Lords, and preserving a system that disenfranchises millions of
    voters in commons elections (EVEN when it’s to the cost of the Nasty
    Party) isn’t *really* a feat to be all that proud of.

  • David Parker

    David Cameron had lost the next election even before losing the boundary changes. The brutality and incompetence of the present government becomes clearer with every passing day. It is almost inconceivable that a Tory party, which could not secure an absolute majority even when the Labour Party was on its knees, will regain power in 2015. Throughout large parts of the country and amongst diverse social groups it has succeeded only in confirming the deep hostility to the Tories which was Thatcher’s legacy. At the same time it has needlessly alienated a myriad of
    particular interests ranging from the police to charities and professions ranging from teachers to judges. It is hardly surprising that the Labour Party is ahead in the opinion polls.

    It is therefore worrying that Labour has not been able to dispel pervasive doubts about its capacity to lead, about the effectiveness of its response to the Tories, about its determination to rebuild the social fabric and take the country in a new direction. The problem is not, as some critics have said, that it is exercising a certain caution in formulating specific commitments two years or more away from an election. That is entirely understandable. The doubts arise because the direction of travel’ is not as clear as Ed Miliband appears to think.

    It is far from clear, for instance, on the pivotal strategic issue of the free market where the Labour Party intends to go. Ed Miliband has personally acknowledged New Labour’s excessive attachment to it. Andy Burnham, who is clearly doing some handwork and thinking, has been explicit that Lansley’s NHS bill with its promotion of competition will be repealed and replaced.

    But so much more could be done to challenge the Tory dogma that the market knows best and is inherently more efficient than the public sector. After all what has this dogma given us in addition to a unbalanced economy hindered by a dysfunctional banking system: a shambolic railway system; a housing crisis; a near fiasco over security at the Olympic Games; a shortage of skilled translators in our courtrooms; energy companies which are licences to print money whilst their customers are
    constantly urged to shop around for the best deal; outsourced and increasingly
    unaccountable public services; telecommunications companies which are a by-word
    for poor customer service; depressed and depressing town centres. The list is
    endless and the Labour Party has had opportunity after opportunity to raise
    public awareness, challenge Tory ideology and prepare the ground for a much
    more interventionist policy.

    Promotion of market solutions everywhere for everything is the corollary of the Tory obsession with reducing the role of the state and the state itself which is seen as little more than an impediment to growth. But where is the Labour response, the assertion of the economic and social value of the public sector and the state itself?

    One part of the state and public sector that the Tories are on the way to destroying, despite their professed commitment to ‘localism’, is accountable local government. Its responsibility for housing has long been diminished; that for secondary education is now following suit along with social services which are either being severely
    reduced or outsourced or both. Faced with the fragmentation of the education
    system Stephen Twigg appears content to repeat Blairite platitudes and the
    leadership as whole has not much more to say about resulting loss of democratic
    accountability. Some clear statements of intent about the need to sustain and develop local and regional government are urgently required.

    The reduction of the state and public sector, with the concomitant privatisation, has all been justified by the need for austerity which in turn has rested on the demonstrable lie that the public debt was out of control and that this was due to Labour’s excesses. Unfortunately the Shadow Cabinet made only a half-hearted and intermittent effort to expose the lie. Even though the technocratic economic argument that the Tories have cut too much and too fast is better understood now it is clearly insufficient as a means of arousing and channeling opposition to the Tory onslaught and its brutal consequences.

    The economic arguments will only bite in the context of a full blooded response to the Tory’s real aims. The opposition to the latest round of welfare cuts was welcome. But to resonate with the public it must transcend the technocratic discussion about whether welfare payments have gone up faster than wages and focus on the underlying and deeply highly ideological objectives of the Tories. Similarly opposition to the privatisation of the probation service must go beyond declaring it to be a ‘gamble’ and make a principled defense of the value of the public sector.

    The Tories have in fact declared class war on the bulk of the population and the services on which it depends. It was disappointing that when some of them accused Ed Miliband of threatening class war in his ‘One Nation’ speech that he did not make the obvious reply. The Party has to show that it is willing to lead the resistance which will undoubtedly deepen as the full force of the austerity programme is felt and
    to get away from an uninspiring debate about how many and which cuts will be
    necessary. In addition to the essential commitment to a strategy based on growth and the protection of the poor and modestly well off it has to be made clear which public services (beyond the NHS) should ideally be excluded from the market and that, where this not immediately practical, much tighter government regulation will operate in the general interest. There has to be a halt to the steady outsourcing of public services to unaccountable commercial interests. The restoration and development of local and regional government must be a central objective and this needs to be filled out with an enunciation of the principles which will determine education, housing and transport policies. A reinvigorated system of progressive taxation will be essential

    The ‘One Nation’ theme can certainly be developed to incorporate all of this. But unless pointed up in more specific ways it could also be used to sustain the Blairite illusions that ideology and class are dead and that public and private do not matter. The Tories have reminded people that neither ideology nor class have yet been consigned to the historical dustbin and that a profusion of PFI schemes have not abolished conflict between private profit and the public good. They know that they are
    not ‘all in this together’. It is up to the Labour Party to articulate this sentiment in a way which deepens understanding of the current crisis, intensifies resistance to the Tories and provides the basis for a truly alternative agenda.

    Millions of potential supporters and well wishers remain to be convinced that the Labour Party is up to the task. It should not have to depend on electoral boundaries.

  • Cameron will be in till 20 20 – The lib dems will get jettisoned in 2015 – and we’ll all live on the moon and make love with aliens.

  • Gerrymandering?? You are having a laugh, right? You just said it yourself- the Tories need an 11 point lead to win a majority. How much do Labour need? Yeah, they’re the party who clearly is fixing the system…

  • Actually Labour lead back into double digits according to Yugov, so the turn around would have to be 23%+. And we have years of this coalition to wear us all down further.


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