Can the Tories really win?

RECENT OPINION polls show Michael Howard’s Conservative Party just two or
three percentage points behind New Labour. They have prompted media
speculation about a shock Tory election victory.

Jim Horton

Opinion poll results are, of course, highly dependent on the wording and
context of the question asked. In February polls showed New Labour ahead of
the Tories by between two and twelve percentage points. The most recent, for
the Daily Telegraph, puts Blair’s party six points ahead.

The Tories may now avoid the electoral meltdown they faced at the beginning
of the year, when polls suggested their worst result in a century. However,
this does not show burgeoning enthusiasm for the uncharismatic Howard; most
workers are fed up with all the capitalist parties and up to half of the
electorate won’t bother voting at all.

New Labour’s failure to improve public services – with privatisation
blighting health, education and transport – together with the continued bloody
occupation of Iraq have led to a deep-seated hatred of the government. Blair
is particularly loathed and seen as arrogant, out of touch and untrustworthy.

Electoral liability

Polls show Blair has become an electoral liability with voters now
preferring Gordon Brown to either Blair or Howard. All three of these
capitalist politicians call for massive cuts in public spending with the loss
of thousands of jobs.

In the absence of a mass workers’ party putting forward a socialist
alternative to privatisation, job cuts and attacks on pensions, worker’s
concerns about public services are being focused, with the aid of the media,
Tories and New Labour, onto the issue of asylum and immigration. Howard has
had some success cynically exploiting this.

Panic in Labour’s ranks is coupled with a hope that the prospect of Tory
victory will spur its core supporters to vote. Barring a collapse of New
Labour’s vote the Tories are unlikely to win the coming general election.

They need to be 12 points ahead for outright victory and five points ahead
for a hung parliament. Howard has clearly shifted the Tories from the pretence
of ‘caring conservatism’ to a right-wing populist agenda, but even this may
not be enough to save the Tories in the long term.

The Socialist Party is standing in over a dozen seats in the forthcoming
elections. That will enable us to put forward a real alternative
in the interests of working-class people rather than tedious point-scoring and
scaremongering from these capitalist politicians.