I think I can assume everyone reading this is already aware there will likely be an early general election on the 8th June. There will be lots of polling ahead, but here are a few initial thoughts:

The overall polling position is a strong lead for the Conservative party. There is some variation between different polling companies, but all the polls are showing robust leads for the Conservative party, most are showing extremely strong leads up in the high teens, a few breaking twenty. As the polls currently stand (and, obviously, there are seven weeks to go) a Conservative majority looks very, very likely. The size of it is a different matter – the twenty-one point lead in the recent YouGov, ICM and ComRes polls would produce a majority in excess of a hundred, a nine point lead like in the Opinium poll at the weekend would only see a small increase in the Tory majority.

It’s harder to tell from the polls how well the Liberal Democrats will do. The swing between Labour and the Conservatives will normally give us a relatively good guide to the outcome between those two parties. The Lib Dems are a trickier question – the polls generally show them increasing their support, and this has been more than backed up by local by-elections. How it translates into seats is a more difficult question, my guess is that their support will be concentrated more in areas that voted Remain and the Lib Dems have a history of very effective constituency campaigning. I would expect them to do better in terms of seats than raw swing calculations would suggest.

The elections will be the test of to what degree pollsters have corrected the problems of 2015. The BPC inquiry into what went wrong at the general election concluded that the main problem was with sampling. Polling companies have reacted to that in different ways – some have adopted new quotas or weighting mechanisms to try and ensure their polls have the correct proportions of non-graduates and people who are have little interest in politics; others have instead concentrated on turnout models, moving their turnout models to ones based upon respondents’ age and social class, rather than just how likely they say there are to vote; some have switched from telephone to online (and some have done all of these!). The election will be a chance to see whether these changes have been enough to stop the historical overestimation of Labour support, or indeed whether they’ve gone too far and resulted in a pro-Tory skew. I’ll look in more detail at the different methodological approaches during the campaign.

Elections that look set to produce a landslide results may bring their own problems – in 1983 and 1997 (both elections that mostly relied on face to face polling, so not necessarily relevant to today’s polling methodologies) we saw polls that largely overstated the victorious party’s lead.

The local elections will still happen part way through the campaign. The local elections will still go ahead at the start of May. It’s been a long time since that happened – in recent decades general elections have normally been held on the same day as the local elections – but it’s not unprecedented. In 1983 and 1987 the local elections were in May and the general elections followed in June. Notably they were really NOT a good predictor of the general election a month later. Comparing the Rallings & Thrasher estimates for the local elections those years with the subsequent general elections, in the 1983 local elections the Conservatives were ahead by 3 points… they won the general election the next month by 14 points. In the 1987 local elections the Conservatives were ahead by 6 points, in the general election a month later they were ahead by 11 points. In both cases the SDP-Liberal Alliance did much better in the locals than the general a month later. In short, when the local elections happen in May and Labour aren’t 20 points behind don’t get all excited/distraught about the polls being wrong… people just vote differently in local elections. It may well give the Lib Dems a nice boost during the campaign though.

The Fixed Term Parliament Act probably ended up a bit of a damp squib. There is still a vote to be had tomorrow and the government still need two-thirds of all MPs so it’s not quite all tied up, but as things stand it appears to have been much less of an obstacle than many expected. There was no need for a constructive vote of no confidence, the opposition just agreed to the election. The problem with the two-thirds provision was always the question of whether it would be politically possible for an opposition to say no to a general election.

The boundary changes obviously won’t go ahead in time for the general election. However, it does not mean they won’t happen. The legislation governing the boundary reviews doesn’t say they happen each Parliament, but that they happen each five years. Hence unless the government change the rules to bring them back into line with the election cycle the review will continue to happen, will still report in 2018, but will now first be used in the next general election in 2022. If the election results in an increased Tory majority it probably makes it more likely that the boundary changes will go ahead – getting changes through Parliament always looked slightly dodgy with a small majority.


309 Responses to “Some thoughts about the general election”

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  1. PETE B @ BZ

    Thanks for the Torygraph link. It may be worth pursuing eventually when or if Brexit actually happens. The $64,000 question will be whether or not it comes with TTIP.

  2. New thread ladies and gentlemen.

  3. @Candy

    “1.20 The concept of giving “due weight” to the larger parties, as required by Rule
    6.2, is flexible. Its application depends on the electoral context. Rule 6.2 does
    not mean that broadcasters automatically have to accord more coverage to
    the larger parties, compared with other parties and independent candidates
    with “significant views and perspectives”. “

  4. @MARKW

    I find Corbyn very honest and sincere – far more so than May – but he isn’t a winner. If you want to hit back at the Tories I suggest you look at who is best placed to beat them instead of automatically voting Labour. In many constituencies the LibDems will be the best choice, so make sure you vote tactically.

  5. Regarding TV debates. It’s up to May. But those supporting her right not to do them, I do hope their not hypocrites and weren’t screaming murder when it looked like Brown didn’t want to do them against Cameron?
    It certainly does mean any future Labour leader can say naff off.

  6. Well thought out and reasoned arguments Ronald

  7. @ Pete B

    ” I mis-typed the spreadsheet column in my formula. There are in fact 72 constituencies where half the UKIP vote was bigger than the majority!”

    easily done

    i agree with your point

  8. So Labour could win this election, if they had the same jump in polling as the libdems did in 2010 for a period,

  9. An interesting article by Janan Ganesh the FT political columnist about whether May will emerge as a centrist manager over brexit or a hard right Brexiter and the likely lack of constraints on her power. it concludes with this paragraph re Scotland:

    “If there is a limit to Mrs May’s power after June, it will be Scotland. Those who ran the successful campaign to preserve the UK in 2014 give some credit to Labour’s poll lead ahead of the general election that was due the next year. Scots who disliked the Tories could vote for the union in the hope they would only be governed by them for a few more months. Those voters can now expect large Conservative majorities in Westminster as far as the eye can see, starting in June. Mrs May must govern magnanimously to avoid provoking them to nationalism. It is not much of a constraint but it will have to do. The others expire in seven weeks.”

    It raises the issue of the Tory approach in the Indy ref )and to some extent 2015 UK GE) and the 2016 UK GE and whether they are repeatable.

    Before 2016 Davidson took the line that it was safe to vote Remain and Tory as Labour were likely to be in power in Westminster. In 2016 she campaigned on a platform which had as little reference to the Tory party as possible.

    In 2017 she has neither option open to her. She can bang the drum on independence and a second referendum but will that shift many votes ( and perhaps it might shift some S Lab votes to SNP as much as to the Tories)? The next batch of Scottish Westminster VI polls will be interesting.

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