So then, the Tories are going to win in Crewe and Nantwich tonight, and the only question is by how much. What with the state of the Labour Party at the moment, and the fiasco over the whole 10p issue, really anything less than a Tory majority of 6,000 (7,000, 8,000) is really a disaster for the Tories, who need to be polling at least 50% to have a realistic chance etc...
Well, that seems to be the line to take among Labour ministers at the moment, and who can blame them? In reality, of course, losing Crewe and Nantwich by one vote would be a disaster for the Government. The Tories haven't won a by-election since the early 1980s; Crewe was considered a safe Labour seat. So the expectation management being carried out by Labour is an indication that they hope things aren't quite so bad as all that. With any luck they'll be able to set the bar of public expectation so high that they'll be able to present some form of positive spin on the result.
It's dangerous stuff though. When they tried it with the local elections in May, the eventual result was far worse than the 'worst-case scenarios' that were spun out before the event. When you say things like 'We'll be in real trouble if we lose more than 200 seats' in the confident expectation that losses will be in the 100 seat region, you look very silly indeed if you lose 300. Similarly here, although there's no particular reason to predict complete meltdown, these things do happen, and if you put the idea out there that a Tory majority of 7,000 would be acceptable, what happens if the majority is over 10,000?
Managing expectations worked a charm for Labour in Iain Duncan Smith's local elections, when a good Conservative result was initally universally portrayed as a disaster. I think now, however, that it creates more risks than it prevents.
Labels: Labour, politics