11 May 2017

UK General Election - results in advance

My forays into politics have a chequered history. Back in 1997 I volunteered to help the Conservatives canvass in Fulham and Putney.

by John Royden

Head of Research


At the end of my ten minute interview, my offer of assistance was dismissed with the opinion that the Tories would probably do better if I canvassed on behalf of the Labour Party instead! 

So with little practical involvement in politics I now tackle the unenviable task writing an article on the results of the as yet unhappened June 2017 General Election.

I turn first of all to the polls. Polls come as the good, the bad and the ugly. 

The ugly polls are the on-line ones where you have to register to participate. That pre-selects the politically active. There is a view that the left-leaning of us are more inclined to register. Perhaps, if you hail from a unionised 36 hour week background, you have more time on your hands compared to the average hard-core Tory capitalist who is hard at work with little time to spare? 

Then there are the bad polls which collate the question “Who are you going to vote for?” The bias here appears to be the Shy Tory, those who don’t want to admit supporting the Tories in public. There is evidence of both biases because the Conservatives have been underestimated in the polls at every election in the last twenty-five years. Conversely, Labour have been overestimated for all but one of those elections.

But a note of caution here, perhaps the Shy Tory is going to morph into a Shy Corbynite. Judging by what I see on TV, it looks as if admitting to supporting Corbyn is not the done thing.

The good polls are the wisdom polls which ask the question “Who do you think is going to win?”  The answer to this question incorporates your view on (a) how both you and your friends and colleagues are going to vote as well as (b) a view on who is going to bother to vote. 

The wisdom comes from the so called “Wisdom of Crowds” theory attributable to Francis Galton who in 1906 observed that the crowd at a county fair accurately guessed the weight of an ox when their individual guesses were averaged, as opposed to the wide dispersion of the estimates of individual crowd members.

The contemporary wisdom polls are the bookmakers, although it must be said that they failed miserably with Brexit and but within the margin of error for Trump. 

As I write, betting at the bookies suggests that the Tories will win 392 out of the 650 available seats. That is up 62 from their current parliamentary position of 330 seats.

One interesting fact of 2015’s results is that 333 of the 650 seats were won by an MP who got less than 50% of the votes cast. So that means that if all the voters tactically went for another candidate, the result could have been very different indeed. 

This is well known to those who are pushing tactical voting. The Lib Dems are putting themselves forward as the anti-Brexit vote saying that Remainer Tories and Labour voters can tactically vote Lib Dem in a last ditch attempt to reverse Article 50. And the Lib Dems appear, to Mrs May’s intense irritation, to be being helped by Europe. Spain is sailing its navy into Gibraltarian waters as well as complaining about the low tax regime there; prompting some to talk about a Falklands-esque war with Spain. Do we avoid war with Spain by voting Lib Dem to reverse Article 50? Added to which, the divorce bill has risen from €60 billion to €100 billion as a pre-condition to negotiating about trade. If we don’t cough up €100 billion then do we face a break down in trade with Euroland?

Donald Tusk has been writing about the possibility of a post-Brexit United Ireland in order to keep the free border between North and South open after Brexit. He worries us that Brexit could drive the succession of both Northern Ireland and Scotland from the UK. Although it is interesting that some Scots are considering tactically voting Tory to stop the SNP from pursuing a second independence referendum.

Mrs Merkel says that Britain still has illusions. These factors, combined with European talk that the UK is not being serious about Brexit could lead you down the path to fearing for a clean (some say “hard”) Brexit. I guess the vocal Europeans probably hope that this will push tactical voters to the Lib Dems as a perceived alternative to an uncomfo rtably hard Brexit.

Gina Miller raised £300,000 and is pushing for tactical anti-tory voting and there is a well-publicised website at tactical2017.com telling you who to vote for to stop the Tories. Dr Ben Goldacre is pushing the tactical vote as well. George Osborne’s first editorials ought to worry wavering remainers. The Lib Dems are tactically not standing in Brighton against the Greens. Tony Blair suggests not tactically not voting Labour. But to swing the pendulum back in the Tories’ direction, UKIP are not standing against pro-Brexit Tories.

Tactical voting initiatives abound; and might surprise.

So how many Remainers will actually use tactical2017.com as a last ditch attempt to reverse Brexit? How many pro-soft Brexiteers will be scared enough by the talk from Euroland about a hard-Brexit to vote tactically for Lib Dems and other remainers? 

My TV shows me disgruntled Labour voters switching to Tory for the first time in their lives. How many will follow through on this if they think that the Tories have got enough of a lead without their support? And how many Tories will shrug the walk to the polling booths thinking that the Tories have got a strong enough lead as it is?

My conclusion is that there is enough going on for a surprise on the downside in terms of the number of Tory seats.


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