Thursday, 25 March 2010

Election Astrology

"Unpopular government tries for a fourth term. Vibrant Opposition team lined up to have the reins of power handed to them. Incumbent PM faces first general election after being elected by his party a few years earlier following the resignation of the previous leader after ten years. Uninspiring economic situation. Opposition cheered by the polls but not carried away by them. But could the government make a surprise recovery at the last minute? Are the people really ready to let the other guys into power? No. They haven't changed. They'll do more harm than good. Give'm another five years in the wilderness.. they're still not ready to govern. Always keep ahold of Nurse, for fear of something worse."

"Discredited government. Desire for change not overwhelming, but decisive. A series of bitter industrial disputes. Government warn that the Opposition will damage the economy and induce unemployment. General mood indicates that a change of government and economic direction is inevitable and neccessary. Government seen as outdated. Opposition get into power on a 5% swing and form a goverment with a working majority."

"General feeling that the current government has been around far too long. Sleaze, incompetence, corruption and leadership disputes all add to the notion that some fresh blood is needed. The young, optimistic and newly revamped opposition provide a clear, positive message for change, aiming to make a break from the politics of the past. Britain can do better. Although economic circumstances appear to be improving, people are not giving credit to the governing party. The governing party poll exceptionally poorly and on election night itself barely scrape 30% of the vote."

"Expectation of low turnout and high number of votes for third parties. Close result projected, but has the feeling of a reluctant poll - neither party seems overwhelmingly popular. Rather than one party set to win the election, it seems both parties are set to lose. Frequent media discussion over the possibility of a hung parliament. SNP poised to damage Labour in Scotland. Opposition take a narrow lead in the new parliament but unable to maintain a stable coalition or rule as a minority, and a fresh election is held."

"Opposition unable to get rid of their old, unpopular image despite leadership's best attempts. Government enjoying improving economic circumstances, and while many feel disollusioned by their policies there is a general understanding that the opposition simply don't have enough gravitas to form a government. Though it is widely understood that the Opposition will increase their represenation in Parliament on the back of remarkably poor showings in the recent past, the sheer number of seats they need to win combined with the fact that there is no genuine impetus for change implies that they have no real chance of forming a majority. Opposition leader obviously a talented orator and debater, but is for the most part singularly uninspiring and unable to muster popular support. Opposition gain a few dozen seats but remain a clear second place in the eyes of the electorate."

Sound familiar?

The previous paragraphs are descriptions of past general elections: 1992, 1979, 1997 and February 1974. The last quote could apply both to 1987 and 2005.

Yet all of these could apply to 2010.

This is no coincidence - what I have done here is show how easy it is to find parellels with past elections, and the vast array of different results you can anticipate depending on how you seek to interpret the opinion polls. The fact is we don't really know what the 2010 is going to be. Despite polling, we have only the roughest idea of the range of results. It is still concievable that either party could form a majority government. Wishful thinkers on all sides might wish to stretch this. A 1997 is possible for the Conservatives. Labour will hold on in a 1992. The Liberal Democrats must secretly hope for a 1974 - after all, a coalition government is the only real chance the Lib Dems have of getting into Whitehall.

Despite claiming that we shouldn't try to compare 2010 too much to any specific election, I do believe that looking at the swings in the past (as I posted about on Friday 19th) is a good way of contextualising the current expecations of swing. They provide a useful benchmark and provide a way for us to compare the public desire for change as it is now to how it was in the past.

However, I'm afraid to say that if there is any real desire for change it is a little more fundamental and bitter (if a little desparing and apathetic) than just which party governs them. I think there are many who would rather there was no party at all. Or no government at all.

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