OPINION: Bad governments cannot go on forever

Behold, I give you PR folk a mystery. MORI, the pollsters, tell us that the people feel let down by Tony Blair's government but it is still 21 points ahead. NOP puts its lead at 15 points.

Behold, I give you PR folk a mystery. MORI, the pollsters, tell us that the people feel let down by Tony Blair's government but it is still 21 points ahead. NOP puts its lead at 15 points.

Indeed, MORI says public satisfaction with the state of the NHS, policing and education has collapsed under New Labour. For the first time, more people are unhappy than happy with the NHS. Dissatisfaction with policing is the worst since pollsters began to take this temperature 20 years ago.

And 56 per cent see no difference in education standards or think they are worse. Mr Blair himself may not be as unpopular as he was but 45 per cent still think he is 'arrogant and out of touch'. So why is Labour set to win?

It could be, of course, that the polling of voting intentions this far off an election is unreliable. William Rees-Mogg has argued in The Times that the polls have always understated Tory support. Maybe the disillusioned are reluctant to tell pollsters they won't vote, but I doubt it. One of the loudest cries you have always been able to hear is 'I can't vote for any of these bastards'.

Most of you will say there is nothing mysterious about why Labour is miles ahead. 'It's the economy, stupid', as Bill Clinton put it. True, Messrs Blair and Brown have not dissipated their golden legacy from Messrs Major and Clarke. But MORI shows that 41per cent think their taxes have gone up and, in spite of dissatisfaction with public services, 52 per cent believe taxes are too high. They are not likely to go down under New Labour.

Others will say that the economy, combined with the public view of the Tory alternative, explains entirely why New Labour is roaring ahead. And, indeed, 62 per cent of NOP's poll think William Hague is a weak leader who will probably never become prime minister. MORI also reveals there are widespread doubts whether the Tories could do any better.

In short, on this evidence, the devil-you-know argument is likely to prevail in May.

The Conservatives have failed to convince the electorate that they are yet an alternative government. I personally don't think this is down to William Hague - and that's not because I'm a fellow Yorkshireman. I believe it is entirely due to the self-indulgence of his colleagues on the front bench and backbenchers alike over the past two years. They have not applied themselves to their business as HM Loyal Opposition. Had they done so, Labour would now be in dire straits.

Their failure could rob us of the one great glory of the first-past-the-post electoral system: we can get rid of a bad government.

If we get proportional representation - as we might if Labour does as badly as Rees-Mogg expects - we shall then be stuck for ever with different permutations with the same old bores. PR would severely tax the PR industry.



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