02 January 2013

"Silly season" over? Not for Peter Kellner it isn't...

As long-time readers will know, this blog has monitored the activities of the Labour hard right closely for the last three years. After a very promising start to 2012 for extreme neo-Blairites, as Ed Miliband seemed increasingly vulnerable to a putsch (if we ignore for a moment the fact that they had almost no credible right-wing leadership candidate), things fell apart in the wake of George Osborne's botched budget of March, and Ed seems as safe as houses.

With things looking rather bleak for their particular brand of carbon-coby Toryism, the neo-Blairites have been forced to retreat into a fantasy world to avoid confronting the harsh truth that their project is in very poor health - perhaps DOA. The most obvious (and amusing) of the Blairite fantasists is Telegraph blogger Dan Hodges, but there are other more superficially credible (and therefore more dangerous) exponents of the dark art. The most obvious of these is YouGov president Peter Kellner. YouGov generally seems to be a pretty accurate pollster, despite only using people with an internet connection to get their results. It's just as well that Kellner heads up an organisation which does its basic job well, because when he tries to play the pundit, he's more clueless than - well, than just about anybody else out there, and that even includes utterly worthless hacks like fellow Blairite traveller John Rentoul of the Independent. Don't get me wrong - Rentoul sucks shit on a regular basis. But he has occasionally been known to write something coherent. Poor old Pete can't even reach that modest standard.

And Kellner's latest YouGov column, "David Cameron's Happy New Year 2016", is not only the worst article written by any (former) political journalist this year (not difficult) - it's the worst written since the 2010 election, and maybe a good few years before that. Kellner assumes that the Tories will be able to increase their share of the vote by 3% on the 2010 level - something no governing party has done in the post-1945 period - and furthermore that a 4% lead against Labour will nonetheless translate into an overall majority due to huge swings from Lib Dem to Tory in just the marginals the Tories need to win, with all the increase in the Labour vote coming in other parts of the country where Labour is already strong. This despite the evidence that the millions of pounds spent by Lord Ashcroft in the Tory-Labour marginals in the run-up to 2010 delivered a swing to the Tories that was almost no higher than the national average.

Labour is currently around 10 to 12 points ahead in the polls. Will they be that far ahead in May 2015? Probably not. Will they be 4 points behind? It seems extremely unlikely. Kellner assumes, as do so many pro-European Blairites, that UKIP will just melt away as the 2015 election approaches. I think it's much more likely that UKIP will poll around 8-10% at a general election (they managed over 3% last time, with no coverage whatsoever in the media (apart from when Nigel Farage crashed his plane on polling day). My own prediction is that the Tories will manage to just about hold the line at 35-36% of the vote, losing votes to UKIP while gaining a few from the Lib Dems. But I can't see them doing any better than that. If Cameron promises a referendum on EU membership (as Kellner predicts)... so what? Are UKIP supporters really going to fall for that? Some of them maybe, but I doubt it would be anything like enough to get Cameron the extra votes he needs.

Kellner also highlights the potential for the Tories to gain seats from the Lib Dems as a result of the collapse in the Lib Dem vote - which certainly will happen. But the Tories will lose many more seats to Labour as a result of the Lib Dem vote collapsing in Labour-Tory marginals. Net result - a big increase in Labour seats. For someone like Kellner, who deals with polling and election results all the time, to misunderstand the likely outcomes of the next election so fundamentally is deeply disturbing.

Or at least it would be if he were really that stupid. Whereas in fact, Kellner is describing not what he thinks will happen, but what he wants to happen. The whole piece is third rate Blairite (D Milibandite?) political fan fiction of the basest stripe, and shows that, far from trying to come to terms with Ed Miliband's project to remodel Labour as a genuine 'soft left' social democratic party, the Labour hard right is still living in 1992. And long may they stay there as far as they are concerned. It's like Oscar Zeta Acosta (aka "the attorney") said about John Lennon in Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas: "That bastard shoulda stayed where has was. Punks like that just get in the way when they try to be serious."

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