Expectations management or fear fulfilment?
One of the more interesting sights of the past few days has been Labour-supporting pundits predicting a Tory victory in 2015 while coalition supporting ones predict a Labour victory.
Paul Goodman, a former Conservative MP who is now executive editor of Conservative Home, predicted in the Telegraph that "It's two years away but the 2015 election is already lost."
A response came a few days later from Dan Hodges, a self described "Blairite cuckoo in Ed Miliband's nest" who has worked for the Labour Party and the GMB trade union but was nearly expelled from the Labour party last year for backing Boris over Ken. (He appears to have got away with it because Ken Livingston himself had publicly backed a non-Labour candidate a few months before.) Dan argued, also in the Telegraph, that "A Conservative win in 2015 isn't only possible: right now it's the most likely outcome."
Lib/Dem blogger Mike Smithson, founder of the Political Betting website has made a bet with Dan Hodges - if Labour wins most seats Dan pays Mike £50, if the Conservatives win most seats Mike pays Dan Hodges £50, if the Lib/Dems or UKIP win most seats neither wins the bet (and meanwhile pigs will be flying backwards round Westminster.)
Mike explains his reasons for predicting that Labour will win most seats here.
Meanwhile pollster Peter Kellner, who is married to a Labour politician, has written on the Yougov site a possible future 2016 New Years' article called "David Cameron's Happy New Year" with a future retrospective on how the Conservatives might win the 2015 election. All four of these people are among the most interesting pundits and all make strong arguments for the probability of outcomes which it is a fair bet that at least three of them don't want to become reality.
I am not criticising the sincerity of any of these writers when I say that there may be a strong element of expectations management in their assessments - none of them wanting those who share their views to be complacent. Which from their perspective is only sensible. Though there is a thin line between trying to depress expectations to realistic levels and discourage complacency on the one hand, and encouraging despair and defeatism on the other!
For what it's worth, I think the strong arguments deployed on both sides largely cancel out, that the result of the next election is wide open, and there is everything to play for.