Until fairly recently I felt that the next General Election would be a bit like 1992, with Labour's majority down but with them remaining the largest party. However, if experience on the doorstep is anything to go by, I may have to change my stance.
Last weekend, Ros and I were in Shepton Mallet, canvassing in support of our by-election candidate, Rachael Witcombe. When the seat had been fought previously, the result had been Conservatives 37%, Liberal Democrats 32% and Labour 29%. Labour were campaigning to some extent, so it was clearly a 3-way marginal. Yet when canvassed, the number of those volunteering that "we're not voting Labour!" was significant. My sense was that some of our previous supporters were switching to the Conservatives whilst previous Labour supporters were switching to both ourselves and the Conservatives. The result? Conservatives 47%, Liberal Democrats 38%, Labour 13%, a result which does not augur well for Labour.
Today, I'm in Red Lodge, where a Conservative resignation has caused a by-election. Red Lodge itself centres on a mixed development which includes former service housing. It's the sort of place where you would expect to find a residual Labour vote. The only problem is, no Labour candidate. Is this another symptom of a Labour Party losing the will to fight?
When morale falters, defeat is seldom far away. My sense is that, unless the Labour leadership rally fast, election defeat is only as far away as Gordon chooses it to be...