While we’re all living through this “Labour bounce” period, it is worth reflecting on items such as this one in the Guardian yesterday under the title of “Guardian/ICM poll: Tories’ 12-point lead offers Labour crumbs of hope“. Because when you actually look at the psephology involved, it makes for dire predictions for everyone but the Tories. Some have wondered why I persist in my prediction that the Tories will win a landslide majority on June 8th; here’s why.
Let’s start with the crumbs one could forlornly place in the basket marked “hope” from a Labour perspective. DE voters are now favouring Labour over the Tories. As are 18-24 year olds. What’s amazing is not that this has happened but that this ICM poll represents the first time during the campaign that Labour have been ahead with these two groups of people. So Labour have managed to wrestle a tiny lead with the unemployed, unskilled workers, college students and young adults back from the Conservative Party. That’s hardly time to crack out the champagne at Labour HQ if I may be so bold as to say so.
It should be pointed out as well that those groups of people Labour have gained ground with over the last few weeks are precisely the people least likely to vote. In fact, while the ICM figures are showing a higher Tory poll lead than other pollsters because they are weighing turnout distinctively down for these groups, one is left wondering if they are still being overrepresented. Who knows, perhaps we are looking at a wave of 18-24 year olds voting on June 8th. Something tells me the propensity to turn out in this age group probably correlates with voting Tory, but perhaps I’m being overly cynical.
But we haven’t got to the really good part just yet. Check out this paragraph from the Guardian article in question:
There is a more positive sign for Labour in the marginal seats they are defending. The detailed poll results show that a Tory lead of 20 points in Labour’s marginal seats at the beginning of the campaign has now shrunk to five points, according to ICM. The figures give the Tories 44% and Labour 39% in Labour-held seats with a majority of less than 15% in England and Wales.
Let me decode the psephological bits for you there that the Guardian erroneously labelled a “positive sign for Labour”. In seats which Labour currently hold where the incumbent has less than a 15% majority, the Tories are AHEAD by five points. Okay, it used to be 20%, supposedly, but let’s just dwell on the 5% figure for now. Do you know how many Labour MPs are sitting on a majority of less than 15%? 65. So if the 5% Tory lead was uniform across all of these seats, that would be 65 seats going to the Tories.
That’s before you add in seats the Conservatives take from the SNP and the Lib Dems – let’s put that at 10 to be relatively safe. This being the case means the Tories would gain 80 seats overall, giving them 406. That’s a working majority of around 167 by my reckoning. And that’s with the polls as they are, with the supposed Labour bounce baked in. So before you calculate for shy Tory voters, or figure on any sort of #LyntonCrosbyfightback coming into play in the last week leading up to polling day, the Tories have a majority coming to them very close to Blair’s 1997 majority as things stand.
I’m not saying I have divine wisdom passed down from some celestial being – who the hell knows what can happen in the last week of this campaign that swings things one way or another. I’m simply saying that the polling as we’ve been getting it during the “Labour bounce” is so much worse than you’re usually used to hearing about from media outlets that should know better in this regard.
Finally we come on to the YouGov seat projection, fresh out this morning, which for posterity is: Con 310, Lab 257, LD 10, SNP 50. This reminds me most of all of YouGov’s 2015 election night exit poll, which projected a hung parliament with Labour on about 50 seats more than they actually got and the Lib Dems on 28. Man, I clung to that poll like a life raft the whole night, “There MUST be something in that poll!” going through my head over and over again. There was nothing in it, and I strongly suspect the same is true of this one.