It may be that politics is the art of the possible but election-winning is about doing one’s sums: then persuading the maximum number in the maximum constituencies to vote for you. Turning them off, not to mention pee-ing them off, is bad arithmetic.John Boy supporters might want to think about just who John Boy's shit-eating is peeing off.
No one ever got to Downing Street save on the basis of two votes: their own party’s core vote (the loyalists, the traditionalists) and the floating vote – those who have no inbuilt allegiance but make up their minds near the election.
But David has a third category – the walkaway vote. Back in 1992 a staggering 14million voted Tory. Did they all love John Major? No, they knew nothing about him.
They just believed, wrongly, that he wore the mantle of Margaret Thatcher. Sixty months later they realised how wrong they had been and the Tory vote slumped by 4.5million.
Only half a million actually switched to Blair. One million when UK Independence Party/Referendum Party (now UKIP alone) and the other three million stayed at home. After four years of William Hague another 1.5 million stayed at home as the Tory vote slithered down to just over eight million. Thus, 4.5million ex-Tory voters are unaccounted for. Maybe a third have died or emigrated but that still leaves three million out there somewhere.
Dave Cameron needs at least a million of the walkaway vote to convert to the walkback vote. He needs another million of the UKIP vote (overwhelmingly former Conservatives) to become the switch-back vote. Then and only then does he need any Lib Dems who prefer him and his ideas to Ming Campbell to change sides.
What he absolutely does not need is to insult the UKIPers (which he has done), convince the walkaway vote to stay away (which appears to be his aim) let alone sneer at the loyalist bloc until they are so fed up they decide to leave as well. That way he will remain Leader of the Opposition for a very long time.
He is being told by the coterie of juveniles and EU fanatics with whom he surrounds himself that it doesn’t matter because offended, disgruntled and insulted Tory loyalists have nowhere else to go come polling day. Big mistake.
I know at least five Tory voters who have decided they simply cannot vote for him. Only the tip of a possible iceberg? Perhaps – but it was the tip of an iceberg that sank the Titanic.
Master David needs every damn vote he can get. Shedding them is not good mathematics.
In 2002 only 425,000 voters voted National, the party's lowest vote since the invention of the steam wireless. Those voters might be regarded as the core vote, people who would vote National even if a donkey were in charge -- which is what those core National voters voted for that year. In 2005 the Nats more than doubled their vote to 890,000, sucking in an extra 465,000 voters (which included 110,000 voters from ACT, 80,000 or so from NZ First, and perhaps 200,000 or so people who'd stayed home in 2002). These would be your "floating voters."
Of these, anyone voting NZ First has to be regarded as too fickle to be considered reliable. I can't imagine that the 111,000 former ACT voters will sit still too long for policies that promise little more than muesli bars in schools and the retention of every measure that Labour ever introduced; and those voters who stayed home in 2002 can't be relied upon not to do so again. (After all, the same donkey they stayed home to avoid in 2002 will be back up there behind John Boy next year.)
And on top of that if the Nats really do want to govern on their own they'll need to pull an extra 300,000 or so in from somewhere, both new young voters (many of whom can no doubt be as easily seduced as John Boy seems to think we all are) and even some of the 935,00 who voted for Hard Labour last time. So if I were they, I wouldn't get too excited too soon about a popularity contest sans policies. Real elections need real policies more than they need honeymoon smiles.
They might reflect too on what the point would be of getting excited about a government trailing an opposition when there's barely any discernible policy difference between them. It makes no more practical sense than it does political sense.
UPDATE: The Herald's breakdown of the leading "pockets of support" for each party is instructive.
- 54.4% of male voters prefer National, while just 29.3% of men prefer Labour.
- Meanwhile, a whopping 50% of students (and their lecturers?) prefer Labour, that party's leading demographic indicator. Those student loan bribes last election are still paying off.
- About a quarter of the unemployed prefer the Greens (no surprise, perhaps, for an openly anti-industrial party whose policies would see the number of unemployed explode), and 3.3% of the self-employed prefer ACT -- that party's largest "demographic."