Tuesday's meeting of The Next Generation group at the ASI was addressed by Peter Kellner, President of the polling organization, YouGov. He told everyone that if they were looking to do spread-betting based on his insights, it would have to be a very broad spread in that anything was possible from a narrow Labour lead to a Tory landslide.
He thought a 2009 election unlikely, and said the outcome of a 2010 election depended heavily on whether the government were perceived to have weathered the economic storms. If people's personal economy (job, spending power) felt good, there would be an upturn for Labour, even if the global economy were still in recession. He could not say how big that upturn might be, but pointed out that the Tories needed to be several points ahead even to get a dead heat with Labour because of quirks in our electoral system.
His basic point was that the uncertainty arose because elections are linked closely to economic ones, and the economy is in uncharted waters. Although he himself and his TNG audience were concerned about issues, he said the electorate at large was influenced more by 'valence,' whether the parties were felt to be competent and sympathetic, rather than to any specific policies.
He answered questions about which events might influence the election's outcome, and received a chocolate rabbit with his round of applause. The ASI's Next Generation members were delighted to be given Easter eggs in lieu of the usual canapés or sandwiches.