“I know very well how foolish I’ll look if I’m wrong”, but I think the Tories are going to win this election, and “win well”, says Matthew Parris in The Times. My grounds for thinking this may be “flimsy”, but I believe the “polling evidence for a stalemate result is flimsy too”.
The three big problems that pollsters always face strike me as more relevant than usual: namely, respondents who haven’t made up their minds; respondents embarrassed to admit their affiliation; and those who have a last-minute change of heart in the polling booth. So far there is little interest in the election, “no confidence” in the Labour party and “no affection” for the Conservative party.
However, the present government is generally thought to be “competent”. The Tories’ strongest suit is the boring one: steadiness, experience, “public anxiety in uncertain times” and a “palpable nervousness” about the Labour alternative. “George Osborne’s budget played straight to those strengths.”
This makes David Cameron’s declaration this week in a BBC interview that he would not seek a third term as prime minister all the more odd, says George Parker in the Financial Times. His competence and authority are the “rock” on which the Conservative election campaign is built.
He is more popular than his party. Why invite speculation on the future leadership and openly undermine his authority at this critical moment? Tony Blair learned to his cost in 2004 what happens when you put a time limit on your premiership. “Authority ebbs away” and power transfers to those coming up behind you.
I think Cameron’s line is “quite deliberate”, says John Rentoul in The Independent. It is the “product of… a recognition that he needs to try everything to increase his vote”. Firstly, people don’t like the idea of leaders going “on and on”. Secondly, it draws attention to other strong candidates – he singled out Boris Johnson, Theresa May and Osborne as possible successors – and makes him look modest.
Finally, adds Matthew D’Ancona in The Guardian, it “quashes the growing orthodoxy” that, should he be re-elected, he will stand down early after a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, which he’s promised will be held in 2017 at the latest.
Cameron’s “disarming” honesty is appealing, says the FT. It suggests he is not “politically obsessed” and recognises there is a realistic limit to anyone’s stay in Number 10. “In terms of raw politics, however, he has made a risky concession, all the more striking for being unforced.”
The past few weeks have been dominated by the row over TV debates, party funding and now Cameron’s future. Once parliament is dissolved next week, our political parties need to stop navel-gazing and engage with the real issues facing the British electorate.