17:18 Thursday 23rd October 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS MANN: The President of market research firm YouGov has been speaking in Cambridge today about the forthcoming General Election. Of course it’s in May, just under six months to go. Peter Kellner has been trying to answer the question, who and what will decide the election. A star-studded line-up today at a special conference. Harriet Harman was there, Matthew Parris, John Snow from Channel 4, Adam Boulton from Sky News, David Willetts MP, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, lots of others. But let’s bring in Peter Kellner now and find out what’s been going on. Hello Peter.
PETER KELLNER: Good evening Chris.
CHRIS MANN: Welcome to Cambridge. Just counting down we are now to the General Election. It’s come up quite quickly, hasn’t it?
PETER KELLNER: It has, and you know Chris, normally six months before an election, one has a broad idea what’s likely to happen. In 1997 it was obvious that Labour was going to win. In 2010 it was pretty obvious that Labour was going to be thrown out of office. This time I’ve never gone into an election more uncertain as to what[‘s going to happen. It’s going to be a really tense, and for those who like these things , an exciting few months.
CHRIS MANN: I saw there was a blog today by our local Green candidate, saying that it’s now a five party system in Britain. Of course there’s a little bit of exaggeration there you might say, but things are complicated because the smaller parties are doing better.
PETER KELLNER: They are, and it’s part of a long term trend. I’m incredibly old, and when I was a young kid in the fifties Labour and Conservative between them were getting something like 95/96% of all of the votes cast. At the last General Election it was only 67% went Labour or Conservative. 33% went for Liberal Democrats or UKIP or Greens or BNP or the Nationalists in Scotland and Wales. I think it’s going to be like that this time, with the Liberal Democrats down quite a lot and the other parties like UKIP, like the Greens, like the SNP in Scotland, they’re all going to be up. There’s a growing disenchantment with the old big incumbent parties.
CHRIS MANN: Of course in the past the Prime Minister usually has called an election with six, eight weeks to go. This time we’ve known for four and a half years when the election was going to be, because of the deal done after the last one. Has it made a difference?
PETER KELLNER: I’m not sure it’s made a huge difference yet, except for the fact that Parliament seems to have not very much to do at the moment. But I think in the new year we might start to notice it, because we know exactly when the election is, I’ve a horrible feeling for those people who, when they hear election news on the radio or television, hide under a duvet and try and think about something else. I think it’s going to be a much longer campaign, because the electioneering, well in a way it’s already started, but come the new year, I think we will certainly have a four month campaign instead of a four week campaign. That will excite some of your listeners. It may appall others.
CHRIS MANN: Now we saw an extraordinary turnout in the Scottish referendum vote. I was there for the last couple of days of that. We saw people really get involved in politics. They cared about the outcome, in some areas over 90% turnout as you know. Will that surge continue here, throughout the UK?
PETER KELLNER: I don’t think we’ll get a surge on that scale. It was a big issue in Scotland. It was a clear issue, and towards the end our polls, other people’s polls, showed it was a very tense and close issue. So if you get something that people care about, and it looks close, that’s when you get a high turnout. Now let’s look at Britain as a whole. In 2010 there was a 65% turnout. Not very good, but slightly better than the two previous elections. I think it will be higher than that next year. I think we may be nudging 70%, partly because I think it will be quite close, and partly because parties like the UKIP and the Greens and indeed the SNP in Scotland are providing greater excitement and greater impact than they’ve had in the past. But 70% rather than the 80-90% we got in Scotland.
CHRIS MANN: I was talking to a leading member of the Government on Monday night. He was visiting Cambridge, and he was very confident that the Conservatives are going to be returned as the largest party, perhaps having to do a deal with one of the smaller ones. What’s your best guess Peter?
PETER KELLNER: Chris , we find that there are two big things at the moment, but when you ask people who they’d prefer as Prime Minister, David Cameron beats Ed Miliband by a mile. Then when you ask people, who do you trust more on the economy, they trust the Conservatives more than Labour. Now you take those two things together and you say, the Conservatives ought to be a shoo-in. However at the moment the Conservatives are not leading in the polls, and the big problem for the Conservatives is UKIP. We’ve never before in Britain had a non-toxic party to the right of the Conservatives. You’ve had the far-right, the BNP and the National Front, Oswald Mosley if you go back some decades. But they in the end never troubled the Conservatives. Now you’ve got UKIP biting at the heels of the Conservative Party, and that is I think of the moment offsetting what ought to be the Conservatives’ big advantage on leadership and the economy. So Chris, you tell me in detail how UKIP are going to do in Yarmouth, in Thurrock, in the Tory/Labour marginals where they might syphon away Tory seats that would help Labour win. You tell me how UKIP will do and I’ll tell you who’s going to be the larger party.
CHRIS MANN: Peter Kellner, thank you so much for joining us. Peter Kellner there, President of YouGov, who are holding that big conference today about the forthcoming General Electionhere in Cambridge.