Centre courting

Both David Cameron and Ed Miliband continue to believe that elections are won from the centre ground. Miliband insists that he does not need to move the centre to the left - the centre has moved itself. But where do voters place the parties on the political spectrum?

A YouGov poll this month asked people to rate themselves and each party on a left-right spectrum from -100 (very left-wing) to +100 (very right-wing). With a score of +46, the Conservatives are now viewed as significantly more right-wing than when they were in opposition. When the poll was conducted in March last year, the Tories had a score of +37.

Cameron is still seen as more centrist than his party (he scores +43) but perceptions of him have shifted rightwards since March 2010, when he had a score of +34.


Labour is viewed as being closer to the centre than the Tories but also as increasingly left-wing.The party's current rating is -41, compared to -28 before the general election. In keeping with this, Miliband is perceived to be to the left of both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. With an average score of +7, Blair was perceived as slightly right-of-centre, while Brown had an average score of -25. Miliband's score is -42, little changed from the -45 he scored in January.

Ironically, the Liberal Democrats, who struggle to poll above 10 per cent in many surveys, are seen as closer to voters than either Labour or the Tories. The party's rating is -4 (identical to voters' own score), while Nick Clegg has a score of 0. But Clegg's average merely reflects that he is viewed as too left-wing by Conservative supporters and too right-wing by Labour supporters. Elections are won from the centre ground, unless you're the Lib Dems.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 17 October 2011 issue of the New Statesman, This is plan B