The Road to 2015

In the shadow of the local and European elections Connect launched its new Road to 2015 General Election Service at a lively political soiree chaired by Connect Chief Executive, Gill Morris. Kevin Maguire (Associate Editor, Daily Mirror), Andy Sawford MP (Shadow Minister for Local Government), Michael Burrell (Chair APPC and Connect NED), Ruth Porter (Head of Economics & Social Policy, Policy Exchange), and Tom Mludzinski (Head of Political Polling at ComRes) debated, challenged and predicted in front of a packed audience in Westminster.

The debate covered UKIP’s ‘triumphant’ election results – with the significant caveats of a low turn-out and that many of their current voters, “typically grumpy older men who read the Mail, Express or Telegraph”, are likely to vote differently in a General Election. But there was little complacency from the panel, with recognition that UKIP had sucked up both Conservative core voters and those whom Labour needs to appeal to in order to win a majority.

The mixed fortunes of both David Cameron and Ed Miliband were chewed over, as were questions about – and some staunch defences of – Ed Miliband as Prime Ministerial material. Discussion of the Liberal Democrats focused less on the further crushing losses the party faced, and more on the impact on the beleaguered Deputy Prime Minister’s standing and what it might mean for next year’s election.

The point was made that in spite of the result, a remarkable display of party unity has meant that not one Liberal Democrat MP has called for Clegg to resign. Perhaps they agree with the panel that due to the nature of the UK electoral system (ironically – the system that the Lib Dems have tried so hard to switch) it is entirely possible that the Liberal Democrats will secure a lower percentage of the popular vote than UKIP, but may still have upwards of 35 MPs – whereas UKIP are still unlikely to win any.

Alex Salmon was recognised as fighting another canny campaign for Scottish independence. The panel questioned the choices made by the Better Together campaign, but there was general consensus that the No campaign would secure a – possibly – narrow victory, as voters still tend to stick with the status quo. However, how far that would dampen calls for further referendums or shifting of power from Westminster to Edinburgh was questioned.

Our panellists were reluctant to make firm predictions for next year – although a small Labour majority was mooted by more than one. A year of uncertainty is ahead and our audience was left in no doubt that there is all to play for. To help you make sure you navigate the Road to 2015 successfully, talk to Connect about our General Election service – designed to help our clients with the best political strategy, planning, engagement and training.

Lora Shopova