William Hague has written in the Telegraph that if the Fixed Term Parliament Act didn’t exist, the case for a general election this spring would have been “very strong indeed”.
Astute SW1ers have been suggesting that this seems like a “bit of a moment”. Of course, it could conceivably be a tactical move to ease the passage of the Article 50 bill. But it’s also pretty clear that the Conservative case for an early election has strengthened over the last few months.
The Tory poll lead has grown further. Concerns about voter fatigue breaking the pollsters’ turnout assumptions will have been eased by the higher-than-normal turnout (and historically strong results) in the recent by-elections. Although Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t seem to be in immediate danger, the Election Data poll shows a substantial erosion of his support, with plenty of chances for things to go wrong for Labour on 4th May (not to mention in any further by-elections). Also, if reports that Number 10 is “deeply worried” about the election expenses investigations are correct, then an election subsequent to any 2015 result that get voided would sidestep that part of the problem.
And the main advantage of waiting – to get the boundary changes through – is (I understand) looking more uncertain. Part of the problem for the Conservatives is that the current seat boundaries have become so unfavourable to them, that almost every other party would lose out from bringing them up to date (and the SNP, who would gain, are opposed anyway).
In other news, one question that just won’t go away is why the Liberal Democrats are consistently doing better in local by-elections than in polls. I have a theory as to why, plus I’ve looked at a couple of alternative explanations. I’ll also have a related piece in the new Lib Dem Newswire, which will be out today.
And Roger Scully has written up the annual ICM/BBC St David’s Day poll. On the constitutional question, 44 per cent want Cardiff Bay to have more powers against 29 per cent for the status quo and three per cent for fewer, while support for scrapping the Assembly altogether is double the support for independence, which remains at 6 per cent.
I suspect we’ll hear questions being asked about the election story, and since we didn’t hear from ICM yesterday, I presume we will today.