At this stage, I expected three things to be happening in regards to the general election campaigns and polling. One, we would see UKIP’s polling numbers deflate and going to the Tories. Two, Labour’s campaign would be a gaffe prone nightmare, seeing their numbers dip into the early twenties and possibly the teens. Three, a Lib Dem bounce in the polls , small, but significant, probably getting them to around 15 or 16.
The first one is undeniably happening, as Conservative polling numbers continue to be in the high 40s while UKIP is stuck in single digits, even with polling companies that tend to show favourable UKIP results. The second one is only half occurring: yes, the Labour campaign has been as shambolic as I predicted, with the car crash interviews coming thick and fast, but instead of causing the poll numbers to slip even further for Labour, there has been an undeniable “bounce”. I put that in quotations because this is a very small uplift we’ve talking about here; they seem to be polling around 27/28 as opposed to 24/25. I think this is because, at least for now, there is a group of voters who have been activated who are so concerned that Labour faces oblivion they want to save the party for future use. This is the “I hate Corbyn but I don’t want Labour to go completely down the pan” vote, and it appears to be more robust than I have previously given it credit for.
The third one is not happening at all. The national poll numbers for the Lib Dems simply aren’t going anywhere for the moment. Which means that if the polls stay the way they are, my prediction of 15 to 20 seats for them is looking decidedly optimistic. But there is one card left to play.
If the Lib Dems over perform in the local elections on Thursday, that could create some momentum for the party. They would have to do really well for this to work, so a gain of over a hundred seats at least, but that’s not out of the question. With a general election coming shortly, the anti-Corbyn Labour crowd may feel even less inclined to support Labour at the locals meaning they lose even more seats than anticipated. And on top of that, I still think they could do worse in the Scottish local elections than many pundits think. So the Lib Dems could stand to gain from all that.
I figure we’ll know where things stand about two weeks after the locals, so around May 18th or so. If the Lib Dems are still polling around 8 or 9 percent at that stage, regardless of local election results, it could be time to recalibrate expectations.