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. PETER CAIRNS (SNP)

    Thanks for bothering to look up the rules. However it makes no difference in my mind and i tstick by my comments that i don’t see a significant downside to her not taking part. My view of such debates is the same as RAF and Rich.

  2. Candy

    “They certainly can hold a debate with only Lab, LibDems SNP and Greens present.

    But because of the “even coverage” rules, will then have to devote a special program to the Conservatives and UKIP.”

    I wasn’t aware that the UKIP leader (whoever s/he will be in June) had said they wouldn’t participate?

    The Electoral Commission rules are designed to ensure that broadcasters don’t discriminate unfairly against candidates/parties by refusing them appropriate coverage “regard to the[ir] relative electoral strength”.

    If parties are given the opportunity to have a place in a debate, but decline to take that opportunity, then there is no requirement that they get a “special programme” all to themselves!

    Depending on their status, parties are entitled to an appropriate number of PEBs. If they choose not to submit such, then there is no responsibility of broadcasters to cover for that party’s unwillingness to contribute.

    We probably need a specialist in electoral broadcasting to give a ruling on this, but I imagine that both ITV and BBC have such people, and consulted them before making public statements on the matter.

  3. RAF
    The Broadcasters will have no choice! The amount of coverage given to political parties is regulated. In 2015 there were complaints from UKIP that despite polling at much higher levels than the LibDems they were receiving less coverage. The response to that criticism was to the effect that campaign coverage was determined by a party’s performance at the previous General Election – 2010 – when the LibDems obtained 23% of the vote and ended up with 57 MPs. This time it will work the other way because the LibDems managed less than 8% in 2015 and just 8 seats.

  4. RAF
    ‘There is no rule that requires “evan coverage” between all UK parties’
    Whilst that is true the Broadcasters for the reasons stated above will be unable to treat the LibDems as being a major player to the extent they were last time. Another consequence is likely to be a reduction in their entitlement to Party Election Broadcasts.

  5. PETER CAIRNS (SNP)

    Many thanks for the Ofcom link. Rule 6.9 [p9 of the PDF] states:

    If a candidate takes part in an item about his/her particular constituency, or electoral area, then candidates of each of the larger parties must be offered the opportunity to take part. (However, if they refuse or are unable to participate, the item may nevertheless go ahead.)

    That seems pretty conclusive to me.

  6. @Graham.

    I’m aware of the rules and do, of course, see your point. Overall the LDs will have less prominence/airtime than in 2015.

    However, the LD revival is a significant media story and will need to be reported as it could well affect the extent of the Tory majority. In addition as the most prominent anti-Brexiteers/soft Brexiteers how is the media to run a “Brexit” election without featuring them in excess of what their prominence should otherwise be?

    I also believe it will be a significant Press story (where no such rules apply).

  7. RAF
    The polls are not currently showing much more than an uptick in LiBdem support at present Moving from 7/8% to 10/11% is almost neither here nor there. Were it to hit 16% a degree of momentum might develop but I doubt that will happen.

  8. Nice to see everyone is to the rules and being non partisan.

    And it’s obviously just a coincidence that all the Strong, Brexit/May/Tory supporters are saying that the Debates are a; Distraction, Irrelevant, Boring, Unnecessary, American, Trivial!

    Peter

  9. @ Peter Cairns
    Yes – lots of political affiliations being worn on sleeves at present…

  10. Zippy
    “I think you are incorrect”

    You are quite right. 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!

    This actually reinforces my original point, which was that though UKIP themselves look likely to do worse than in 2015, the battle for their voters could be crucial in many places. Because of Brexit, this is likely to benefit the Tories more than anyone else. Of those 72 seats, I think 33 are currently Labour with Tories second, so if the Tories peel away half the UKIP vote they will win ceteris paribus.

  11. PETER CAIRNS (SNP)

    “Nice to see everyone is to the rules and being non partisan.”

    Yes, good to see.

    “And it’s obviously just a coincidence that all the Strong, Brexit/May/Tory supporters are saying that the Debates are a; Distraction, Irrelevant, Boring, Unnecessary, American, Trivial!”

    No, just some of us stating a reasonable opinion which I am sure many agree with.

    No doubt the voters will pass judgement on the 8th June and we will see.

  12. I hope Theresa ultimately agrees to the debates. I look forward to them now.

    I realise that debates are usually a risk for the incumbant moreso, but with Corbyn there what does she really have to lose?

  13. SSSimon

    “what does she really have to lose?”

    Wales?

  14. Old Nat,

    Will Nicola Sturgeon be pressing for a televised debate in Scotland?

    What does she have to lose? (56 seats)

  15. When anybody mentions TV debates all that ever comes in to my head is ‘I agree with Nick’

  16. @TOH
    “No doubt the voters will pass judgement on the 8th June and we will see.”
    I think the biggest risk to accurate predictions (in which I include Mrs May’s ‘prediction/expectation’ of a greatly increased majority) is that the voters will not do this. I fear they will stay at home in droves, and turnout may go below 60%.
    Even 40% of 60% is under 25% of the electorate. Not much of a mandate.

  17. Paul H-J

    I doubt that any of the Leaders in Scotland will be “pressing” for a TV debate, and they’ll all be happy to take part.

    They are perfectly normal here, and part of a long standing tradition.

    Harking back to the ways of the distant past seems to be an English Tory concept. After all, Miss Marple never watched a Leader Debate – even if she did look at a Murder in the Vicarage! :-)

  18. SSSIMON

    I will be amazed if she does. There is no political advantage in her doing so.

    Based on the latest opinion poll TM is seen as correct to be calling a snap election, the voters expect her to win the election, she is seen doing a good job as PM by 57% to 24% a lead over Corbyn of 33% and the Tories lead on the economy by 51% to 12% a lead of 39%.

    Surely all she has to do is produce a good manifesto building on the things that the voters like about her, campaign as hard as she can, especially in marginal seats by getting out there and talking to ordinary voters.

    Why do something which gives her no political advantage.

    Dave

    Since the elctorate seem to welcome her calling the election judging by the two snap polls I actually think there will be a good turnout especially amongs those the most likely to vote, the middle aged and older.

  19. Pter Cairns,
    “A Clear position on Brexit and Immigration, like it or not as tough as the Tories with specifics”

    If labour go into this election offering hard Brexit, they will lose. They can only win (or survive relatively unscathed) if they can harness the remain vote. To be ‘conservative light’ on the subject of Brexit is simply a recipe for disaster, and would see their predominantly Remain remaining supporters defecting to the libs in droves.

    About the only path I see for them is to say they will commit to negotiating the best deal they can, but to put the national interest first and be willing to go for soft Brexit or even no Brexit or another referendum if it is clear Brexit is a failure. Quite how they finess that while not upsetting their remaining Leave voters is another matter. What I describe sounds more like the libs position. Which is precisely the problem for labour. They have no credible postion and ‘Leave’ is already taken.

    The other Howard,
    ” I assume the currency markets expect an increased Tory majority strengthening her hand for the Brexit negotiations IMO of course. ”

    Another interpretation might be that Brexit has just been delayed by another 2 years, which is seen as good for the economy. May rather seems to have said that the 3 years remaining was not enough get it done.

  20. The Other Howard,

    “No, just some of us stating a reasonable opinion which I am sure many agree with.”

    Well if it’s all the same to you, I’ll wait till someone who isn’t pro May and Brexit says she shouldn’t do the debates!

    Or Indeed till a pro May Brexiteer says they think she should.

    There is already a feeling that this is more to do with narrow party advantage than what’s good for the country and if the same narrative developes about the debates it might cost the Tories support.

    If May has a weakness it is that the public she her as distant and that she doesn’t understand working people. Not debating could reinforce that!

    Peter.

  21. Dave
    “Even 40% of 60% is under 25% of the electorate. Not much of a mandate.”

    More of a mandate than any single party has had since 1997.

  22. Peter Cairns SNP

    A Pro SNP and anti Brexit person would say that Peter.

    “There is already a feeling that this is more to do with narrow party advantage than what’s good for the country and if the same narrative developes about the debates it might cost the Tories support.”

    The snap polls show the voters supporting her calling the election. The currency markets also seem to support her going to the polls as I posted earlier

    As I say i look foward to what the UK voters do on June 8th.

  23. THE OTHER HOWARD

    You make reasonable points re polling stats and older voters but the real question if she is empty chaired becomes will older voters watch the debates?

    I suspect they will and if there is no Con presence there will be no immediate opportunity to rebut the stats on matters like the NHS which non-Cons will be delighted to agree upon.

    And like it or not the young are more likely to watch them and take on board the stats spelt out, which may well increase the turnout of younger voters, especially those denied the franchise in the 2016 referendum but who are likely to suffer most from its result.

    In such circumstances, Sir Humphrey would probably have called May “courageous” for staying away.

  24. Danny

    Since TM has repeatedly spelt out what she wants from Brexit, including a White paper I think the voters should be quite clear and it hasn’t changed the polls, indeed the Tory lead has increased since Art 50 was triggered, and the polls also say she is best suited to carry out the neotiations for the UK.

    On that basis I cannot agree with your points.

  25. BARBAZENZERO

    All I can say is we will see on June 8th.

    “In such circumstances, Sir Humphrey would probably have called May “courageous” for staying away.”

    I like that, as I posted earlier she certainly isn’t “frit” but there is no advantage in her doing them IMO.

  26. BARBAZENZERO

    “…..which may well increase the turnout of younger voters, especially those denied the franchise in the 2016 referendum but who are likely to suffer most from its result.”

    Or, of course, likely to benefit most, depending on one’s point of view.

  27. Barbazenzero

    I’d argue even if she did a debate the majority of younger voters would come to the same conclusion!

    I don’t really like the debates, The question and answer QT format is more in-depth. Of course a good old fashioned traditional long interview is still best.

    The debates just tend to be soundbites and facts can very easily get lost.

  28. Peter Cairns – “I’d read it as giving May the opportunity to participate, but if she doesn’t take up the offer then they are in the clear.”

    Yes. But because the Conservatives have the most seats in Parliament, if they are not in the debates the broadcasters will have to make it up by giving them separate coverage elsewhere.

    See

    https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/25643/section6.pdf?lang=cym

    1.7
    Due impartiality can be achieved over a period, for instance a General Election period in “clearly linked and timely programmes”. Broadcasters may have regard to any measurable and objective evidence of the likely level of electoral support for particular candidates, and the relevant political context, in deciding relative levels of coverage for different candidates in the same election

    So giving lots of coverage to Corbyn in the debates and not to Mrs May is a problem, they will have to give her a slot on her own to make up for this.

    Some people have mentioned that they don’t need to give any coverage to UKIP – they have to give them the same coverage they give the Greens and Plaid. See
    .
    “Rule 6.2:
    Due weight must be given to the coverage of larger parties during the election period. Broadcasters must also consider giving appropriate coverage to other parties and independent candidates with significant views and perspectives.”

  29. PETE B @ BZ
    Or, of course, likely to benefit most, depending on one’s point of view.

    You are, of course, entitled to your opinion, but the problem with your likely to benefit most is that it is entirely conjectural whereas the disadvantages of being outside the EEA are fairly well known.

    TERRYP @ BZ

    You have a point – the QT format might reveal more, but that’s up to the broadcasters. I seem to recall BBC3 trying a similar format for younger voters in 2015 which worked well.

  30. @ PATRICKBRIAN
    SYZYGY
    Fair enough – they’re not all like that, I know. Some do support the policies rather than the man, and I agree it was a bit of a cheap jibe. But there also not a few (at least among my circle) whose support is deeply personal, and don’t really understand much about policy anyway. Would you deny that? At least we seem to agree that both groups will continue to support him whatever the election result, though. My point, as a reply to Graham and Chris Lane, was that the assumption that he will resign/ be got rid of is not well founded.
    ————————————————————————–

    Thanks for the acknowledgement so I will return it by agreeing that some Corbyn-supporters do sound like they’re in a fan club. However, I also think that even the least informed know that Corbyn is proposing a more equal and fairer society…. and tbh I think that is why they ‘love’ Corbyn. It isn’t his beard, looks or great singing voice that they are keen on :)

  31. Mike Smithson reporting

    CON 48%(+4)
    LAB 24%(+1)
    LD 12%(0)
    UKIP 7% (-1)
    OTH 9%(-1)

    YouGov/Times poll Apr 18-19 1727 sample.

    UKIP vote has crumbled away to the Tories, wow that’s a big lead to start with!

  32. UKIP -3 sorry

  33. BZ
    I didn’t give my opinion, merely pointed out that there are two possible views on the matter.

  34. Candy

    I must have missed the comments where anyone said “they don’t need to give any coverage to UKIP”.- perhaps because they only exist in your imagination? – and that’s a place that I definitely want to enter!

    Most of us know the rules that OfCom and the BBC Trust produce – but none of them include any requirement for a broadcaster to provide separate coverage to a party that declines an offer to participate in a format that they don’t fancy.

    If you can find any such statement in the guidelines, then please quote it.

    I’m sure the legal people at ITV and BBC would be glad to see it – since, according to you, with their specialist knowledge, they totally missed it!

  35. Can the Tories break the 50% barrier on popular vote?

  36. TerryP
    It looks as though my earlier comments are coming true already. If the Tories pick up half the UKIP votes in constituencies where they are second to Labour, that’s 33 seats straight away.

  37. Graham

    I will be very happy if Tim Farron manages to get as much coverage from the BBC in the election as Nigel Farage (who was a member of no official campaign and leader of a Party with one MP, who was not even him!) got in the referendum!

    Farage got more referendum coverage than Farron, Corbyn and everyone except Dave and Boris combined.

  38. So staking the election on BREXIT has seen the UKIP vote immediately crumble away to the conservative party from the 2 polls post calling an election.

    Now lets see what happens to the CON remain support and what’s going on in Scotland.

  39. TerryP – “UKIP vote has crumbled away to the Tories, wow that’s a big lead to start with!2

    I think what is happening here is similar to what happened in Scotland – For example Allan Christie has stated several times that he supports the SNP in Scotland purely to deliver independence, he doesn’t like their policies and would vote Tory in an Independent Scotland.

    Mrs May is similarly appealing to people who would normally not vote Conservative, but want her to deliver Brexit. Once it is done and dusted, they will go back to their previous allegiences (though she will be hoping a small percentage stick with her).

  40. PETE B @ BZ

    Fair enough. TBH, it’s been quite a while since I heard or read any suggestion of the benefits of the UK’s defenestration from the EU.

  41. I agree with the posters who back May’s decision not to bother with the debates. I don’t see what they add to the democratic process.

    We elect Members of Parliament, not presidents, and this isn’t showbusiness.

    Hopefully she will stick to her guns and we won’t have any more silly TV debates.

  42. Gents/Ladies: It would be nice to see what, in your opinions, the final polling percentages might be (based on present predictions, obviously)

  43. BZ
    Here’s one from today, though it may be from a source you don’t normally peruse:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/19/paul-ryan-announces-us-ready-forge-new-bilateral-trade-deal/

  44. @Danny The liberal democrat position is, as I understand it, that they will reverse Brexit This is not credible as they will not win the election and no one expects them to,

    Why should not labour say ‘we will negotiate the best deal we can and then put it to the people’. It’s the logical thing to do unless one wants Brexit at literally any price. No one expects labour to win either so there is no immediate reason why this should weaken the U\k’s negotiating position. And any remainer in a seat that that Labour has a chance or winning should vote for it, Remainers in former Lib Dem seats will of course vote for them as should any Labour person in those seats.

    If the deal is appalling the hope must be that there will be enough L|b Dems, Labour and strongly Europhile Tories to vote Brexit down.

  45. OldNat – “none of them include any requirement for a broadcaster to provide separate coverage to a party that declines an offer to participate in a format that they don’t fancy.”

    Sure they do. “Due Impartiality and Due Accuracy and Undue Prominence of Views and Opinions”

    https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/24534/section5.pdf

    If they allow the Greens and Plaid in the debates they will have given them Undue Prominence compared to UKIP who poll more (and remember who got over 25% of the seats in the 2014 European Elections, which was not that long ago).

    So they will have to make it up to UKIP (if they don’t participate in the debates – they might for all we know).

  46. With reference to comments about JC supporters. I support him and his efforts because I agree with his policies.
    So do two other people I know.

    I would happily support any leader supporting similar aims.

    There have been huge efforts to portray JC and his supporters as something malevolent or cultish. It’s wrong.

    Even Tom Watson had a go with his Trotsky twaddle.

  47. SSSimon
    Ok

    Con 45
    Lab 26
    Lib 12
    UKIP 7
    SNP 5
    Green 2
    Others 3

  48. This election is going to be the most difficult ever to predict in terms of translating the Opinion Poll figures into seats.

    Although it’s quite clear that the Tories will be by far the largest Party and Labour will lose seats, it’s quite possible the Tories could end up either just short of an overall majority, or with a majority of 150.

    Some things to note:-

    1. The election (unlike 2015) is being conducted on the newly ‘cleansed’ Electoral Registers. That should slightly favour the Tories. although not nearly enough to mitigate the heavy anti Tory bias in these old boundaries.

    2. Anything could happen with tactical voting. In 2015 the ‘anti Tory tactical voting syndrome’ unwound heavily. Hence the result. However, this time it might return in the guise of ‘anti Brexit tactical voting’, bringing about a significant Lib Dem revival in certain seats which will not detect.

    On the other hand there might be counterbalancing (again unquantifiable) tactical voting in FAVOUR of Brexit and against ‘anti Brexit’ Labour and Lib Dem candidates.

    3. In Scotland we might also see the end of people tactically voting for the SNP, reversing their position, and voting tactically for the Unionist candidate most able to actually beat the SNP.

    4. In Wales where Labour has a solid core of seats, there isn’t the Corbynite meltdown that we’ve seen in England. All the Welsh Labour MP’s are resolutely anti Corbyn. And although Wales voted Leave, it doesn’t have the same large, heavy Leave voting enclaves that parts of England does. So the effect on the candidates’ prospects in Wales would be limited.

    I would, however, expect Owen Smith in Pontypridd and Stephen Kinnock in Aberavon to take hit, but their majorities are big enough to easily withstand it.

    I suspect however that Plaid Cymru will win Ynys Mon (Anglesea) from Labour, and it will be 50:50 whether the Tories can win Bridgend or Wrexham from Labour. The Lib Dems might also be able to get Cardiff Central back from Labour. But I wouldn’t count on any of it.

    It’s not even inconceivable that Labour and the Lib Dems respectively, could win Gower, and Brecon and Radnor back from the Tories.

    5. Also be careful about what’s going on in the potential Lib Dem localities which are affected by the Heathrow Third Runway decision.

    I would therefore be very careful about trying to extrapolate polls into the Swingometer even if the polls are accurate. I wouldn’t rule out either, that the polling companies might have modified their methods to the extent that they’ve introduced a pro Tory bias into their figures, rather than the anti Tory one they belatedly discovered. This is not 2015.

    Mrs May’s greatest risk is complacency, not by her or her campaigners, but by her voters who might want her to win, but not want her to win with too big a landslide. She needs to fight for every vote like her life depended upon it, and explain that it’s not in the bag. But that might be difficult if Labour does really badly in the local elections.

    The local elections might also provide a boost for the Lib Dems. They do well locally, and they might be able to maintain the momentum up till June 8th. With the coalition fading in people’s minds, the Lib Dems will be able to attract anti Tory tactical votes again.

    My view remains that the Tories will get a majority of no more than 50-55, with about 350 Seats to Labour’s 200,

  49. MarkW
    “With reference to comments about JC supporters. I support him and his efforts because I agree with his policies.”

    Isn’t part of the Labour problem that Corbyn’s policies aren’t always the same as the party’s official position? e.g. nuclear weapons.

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