Alex Massie

1910, 1924, 1931... 2010?

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As a coda to this response to John O'Sullivan's response to this post it really isn't the case that the Conservatives are doing badly. Not only may Cameron beat Labout by the same margin  - in terms of the popular vote - that Mrs Thatcher triumphed by in 1979 (seven points) but his triumph will be much greater than hers. For while the Lady could get to 339 seats by winning 62 extra seats, Cameron will need to win double that number just to win an overall majority.

Rarely have the Tories fced such a daunting task. In 1931 they won an extra 210 seats, in 1924 they took an additional 154 and in 1910, after the great disastoer of 1906, they increased their presence on the green benches by 116. So Cameron may end up by matching Thatcher's 1979 margin of victory while increasing the number of Tory MPs by more than 50%  - an achievement that would be one of the three or four most notable of the last 110 years.

And yet people still ask why he's not doing better? Fiddlesticks, it's just as reasonable to ask why he's doing so well, given the scale of the turnaround. True, he won't win 45% of the vote but the electorate is even more fragmented than it was in 1929 when no-one received more than 38% of the vote. And so expectations should be reset accordingly.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times has switched from Labour to the Tories. That reflects Labour's failings and the widespread sense that it's time for a change but, like the Times and the Economist, the FT might not have switched to the Conservatives without there being something worth switching to. It's not just that the papers like to back winners (though there's a part of that going on.)

Yes, Gordon Brown is hopeless but the Tory party remembered that its job is to win elections when it elected Cameron as its survival instinct kicked-in (the same instinct that toppled Thatcher even if, in that instance, 1992 proved Pyrrhic). Despite the mistakes and mis-steps the party is now in a position to win. That's an achievement that will, in its own way, stand beside those from years past if, according to one set of measurements anyway, the Conservatives have one of their three of four best results in a century...

UPDATE: David Frum weighs in with, I think, a fair summary and measured judgement of this discussion.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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