Labour narrowing the poll gap with the Conservatives has got to be good news for Keir Starmer, right? Wrong, actually.
Let me tell you why it isn’t and why the recent tightening of the polls should leave us more convinced than ever that the Conservatives are on course for a comfortable victory at the next general election.
First off, let’s take the headline data. Politico Europe’s poll of polls is as good a place to find it as any and it tells us that on 23 June the Tories were averaging 43 per cent, to Labour’s 33 per cent. By 29 July, the Tories were scoring 40 per cent to Labour’s 35 per cent. So a ten point average Tory lead has halved to a five point average Tory lead in the space of five weeks.
That’s clearly not sufficient to justify protracted cork-popping among champagne socialists at Labour HQ, but maybe a bargain basement bottle of prosecco could be opened? They shouldn’t even bother with that.
For what we’ve actually been witnessing is an enhanced ‘don’t know’ effect. Labour has shown it simply can’t capture significant numbers of Tory switchers despite being presented with a target-rich environment at an opportune moment in the electoral cycle.
For several weeks now, Boris Johnson’s administration has been enraging a big chunk of its natural support base. The PM’s attempt to dodge isolation after getting pinged, his apparent support for vaccine passports, his failure to tackle irregular migration across the Channel and increased awareness of the implications of his green agenda are just some of the provocations.
The combined effect shows up dramatically in the latest Conservative Home readers’ survey of ratings for Cabinet ministers. The PM’s net positive score has plummeted 36 points in a single month, to just 3.4.