Today marks 12 months until the general election – and we have plenty to be excited about

Home Affairs IThis time next year, under the terms of the Fixed Parliaments Act 2011, the polls will be open for the 56th general election of the United Kingdom.

Just let that sink in. In exactly 12 months time, this country will be choosing its next government. Of course, to some people, ‘choosing’ may be seen as a little generous as not only the usual doomsayers but also a number of respected commentators are predicting another coalition government in 2015 – with some warning of the spectre of a LibLab coalition.

Others are predicting, heaven help us, a small Labour majority – an assumption no doubt arising from the idea of UKIP causing havoc in Tory marginals. Many of us have neither forgotten nor forgiven their role in returning Ed Balls for Morley in 2010, for example. Certainly the electoral arithmetic presently supports this notion – with the most recent poll predicting a Labour majority of 40 – with the party winning almost 100 seats more than the Conservatives and UKIP, predictably, winning none.

Matthew d’Ancona and Dan Hodges have come out a little more enthusiastic, though, predicting David Cameron will return to Number 10 with a tiny majority for the Conservatives. There are certainly historic precedents for surprise election results – 1970 being one of the better ones for the Conservatives – but Labour were expected to win that election right up until polling day. What if our fortunes begin to turn around before then?

Well you’ll be happy to hear there’s a very good precedent for that, too. It may now seem unbelievable, given the eventual size of the landslide which cemented Thatcherism in the British body politic, but there were some genuine jitters in the Tory camp in the run up to the 1987 election, which was fixed for June 11. Lord Bell, who provided new posters following the perceived failure of party chairman Norman Tebbit’s campaign, even claims to have shaken the latter by the lapels claiming the party was going to lose the election.

Again, the polling of the time appeared to support this. The ‘Falklands bounce’ of the 1983 Thatcher government appeared to last until February 1985, when the Conservatives tied with Labour in an Ipsos MORI poll at 37 per cent. It was all downhill from there. Save for the odd poll, the party began to consistently lag behind Labour and, from November 1985,  the Conservatives never once polled above Labour for 12 months.

Even one year before the election, the point we’re at now, the party was polling 35 per cent to Labour’s 39. The latest YouGov poll, on the other hand, puts the Conservatives at 34 per cent to Labour’s 35. The tables only began to turn in the 1987 election campaign nine months before polls opened – November 1986 – when a one percentage point lead over Labour steadily grew into double digits in every subsequent poll.

You could say, of course, that this isn’t 1987. And you’d be absolutely right. Tina Turner isn’t advertising Pepsi; Wall Street, Predator and Evil Dead II aren’t showing in cinemas (sadly) and Never Gonna Give You Up is a Rickroll, not a number one single.

But there are similarities. This government has had to make unpopular decisions, much as the Thatcher government did, which were nonetheless regarded as necessary and to have worked by polling day. Unemployment actually broke the post-war record in July 1986, too, with 3.1 million people – more than ten per cent of the workforce – out of work. Today it is still relatively high by pre-2008 standards at 2.2 million but – importantly – this represents a five-year low which continues to improve. Likewise, after the high of 1986, unemployment fell for the rest of the decade.

We had the wildcard, too. The SDP/Liberal Alliance continued to threaten to siphon disaffected Conservatives votes in much the same way UKIP do today though, in a manner also similar to UKIP, they remained a threat to Labour as well – polling as high as 24 per cent less than two months before the election.

But, historical comparisons aside, we have real reason to be excited about this election. All the economic indicators are pointing to a sustained recovery – meaning we can finally tell people that Plan A worked. In fact, just to squeeze one more historical comparison in here (last one, promise), remember the poster Tebbit was pasting in that YouTube video (what, you didn’t click it earlier?) That said Britain had the fastest growth of any major European economy. Well the IMF is predicting this year, the UK economy will grow at a rate of 2.9 per cent, the fastest of any western country.

This is important because one of the most oft-cited explanations for why we were thrown out of government in 1997, despite a booming economy, was because our greatest asset against Labour – our economic credibility – had been shattered by the débâcle of Black Wednesday and its resultant recession. That was 17 years ago. For 17 years the electorate hasn’t been sure whether they can trust us on the economy or not but we finally have the evidence to show them they can.

Furthermore, on the economy, Labour has been left with nothing more to say. They have completely run out of ideas and had it rubbed in their faces that, far from ‘flatlining,’ the economy is in full recovery – while their own medicine has been shown to have brought the patient close to death in France under the prescription of Dr Death himself, François Holland.

All this will begin to become more and more apparent as the months go by and voters really start to think  seriously about who they want to run the country and who has the best track record. And, at the risk of being sucked back into historical comparisons, we shouldn’t fear a drubbing at the European elections this month, either. Just consider that the Conservatives won both the 1999 and 2004 elections to the European Parliament, but it didn’t do us much good in either of the subsequent Westminster elections (2001 and 2005)!

As mentioned above, we are now only one percentage point behind Labour – which is itself part of a pattern that has seen the gap steadily close over the last 12 months. We have much to be excited about and much to brag on the doorstep – however the naysayers might complain, the fact is we can win this election outright and, with your help, we will.

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