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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Tories Can’t Win; Can Labour Lose?

Britain’s general election is just four days away, and polls are showing a tightening race wherein Labour has a very small lead among likely voters. For complicated reasons involving party vote concentrations, Labour could lose the popular vote and maintain control of the House of Commons and hence the government, albeit with a greatly reduced majority. But Tony Blair himself, fighting a combination of Labour complacency and a threat on the Left to punish him by casting protest votes for the Liberal Democrats, is raising the specter of a Tory upset victory like that of 1970.There’s not much doubt that British voters generally endorse the direction of New Labour’s stewardship of the country, and reject the Tory message, which increasingly revolves around a backlash against Asian (and largely Muslim) immigration. But incumbency fatigue and lingering hostility to Blair’s decision to go to war in Iraq (aggravated by last-minute press reports that Blair failed to release a full report from his attorney general assessing the legality of the Iraq invasion) are giving Labour a great deal of stretch-drive heartburn.In other words, the Tories cannot win this election, but it’s possible Labour could lose–if not the govenment, then an effective majority. And that’s why the final days of the campaign will largely revolve around Labour efforts to boost turnout, savage the LibDems, and let voters know a decision to protest this or that aspect of Blair’s record could produce a government they don’t want.

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