Monday’s ICM opinion poll showing the Tory lead going up to 5 per cent over Labour (with the lead the same for both online and phone versions of the poll and our vote share 33 per cent on the phone and 31% online) was simply not a good enough showing by us at this stage in the electoral cycle.
ICM are often described as the gold standard of opinion pollsters in terms of accuracy. And ComRes also showed us 5% behind this week.
This 5% Tory lead comes at a time when the Tories have had their worst few weeks since they went back into government: their party is bitterly and publicly split on Europe, the economy is looking rocky, the budget was unfair and is unravelling, unpopular cuts are biting, ridiculous and extreme ideologically-driven policies are being pursued such as forced academisation, the Government’s handling of the steel crisis has been complacent and dilatory.
We should be miles ahead not limping behind.
Here’s where we were with ICM in April of the year after each General Election recently
1984: Labour 1 per cent ahead on 38 per cent (this was the June figure as the series only started then)
1988: Labour 1 per cent behind on 42 per cent
1993: Labour 3 per cent ahead on 39 per cent
1998: Labour 17 per cent ahead on 48 per cent
2002: Labour 16 per cent ahead on 45 per cent
2006: Labour 2 per cent behind on 32 per cent
2011: Labour 2 per cent ahead on 37 per cent
Even allowing for methodology changes this April represents a nadir of Labour fortunes at any comparable point in electoral cycle the last 30 years – a worse raw vote share than any year other than 2006 and our worst position at this stage relative to the Tories ever. The relative lead is even 7 per cent down on our 2 per cent ahead position under Ed Miliband at the same point.
This isn’t the fault of our great council, Welsh Assembly, Mayoral, Scottish Parliament, London Assembly and PCC candidates.
It isn’t the fault of all us activists slogging the streets canvassing and leafleting – you only have to look at Twitter and Facebook to see everyone is working their socks off.
It isn’t the fault of our MPs – they are campaigning as hard as anyone else and are more united than at any time since September.
It’s the fault of political reality.
We chose a political direction last year – sharply leftwards – that is at odds with the verdict that the electorate gave on our 2015 image and positioning. They sent us a very clear signal – much to my distress as a big backer of Ed and his ideas – that we were already too leftwing under Ed Miliband. Now we are reaping the consequences.
That simple truth is inescapable.
Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have two and a half weeks to turn round our performance and win the May elections.
If they win then we will all be delighted.
If they don’t do that they need to consider their positions and whether they should put the Labour Party before factional interest about internally controlling it and let more personally and politically popular figures take over.
Whereas there are local elections every year and the defeat of good councillors is a tragedy and a setback to our General Election hopes, but one that can eventually be recovered from, on June 23 in the European referendum we face a one-off vote with permanent and critical implications for our country’s future.
We can’t be led into that vital fight by proven losers.