10 Sep 2019

Analysis: Poll predicts hung parliament – but it will all come down to campaign tactics

Tonight we publish a poll from new kids on the psephological block, Focaldata. It is a big sample and they’ve rammed in extra data in their own version of the (MRP – multilevel regression with poststratification) approach which helped YouGov and The Times to glory in 2017, predicting the hung parliament Theresa May got when all seemed set for a majority.

It projects, on current standing, an election that would produce another hung parliament. The Tories in this modelling are on 317 MPs (identical to 2017) and Labour are on 237 (down 25).  The Tories have a “standstill” election because the Brexit Party is hurting them at 14%. You can read the full report on the polling data here.

No. 10 seems to want to squeeze the Brexit Party vote down without linking arms in a pact. If that worked, and the Tories could, as Dominic Cummings hopes, squeeze the Brexit Party down to, say, 7% of the vote, they could be looking at a thumping majority under these numbers.

But if the pro-Remain parties got tactical and half the supporters of the Lib Dems in a Lab/Con marginal switched to Labour, say (likewise half the supporters of Labour switch to other pro-Remain parties where the other party is in first place, a process repeated for the SNP, Plaid and the Greens), the Labour Party could be looking at a very healthy majority.

Consolidation on the pro-Leave side is widely thought to be easier to achieve than on the pro-Remain side but the pro-Remain forces are busy behind the scenes trying to change that.

Another interesting phenomenon which the Focaldata work points to: a big decline in the number of seats where an MP wins with more than 50% of the votes cast in the constituency. In 2017, 468 MPs won with more than 50% of the votes cast. In the Focaldata projection we could be looking at 35 seats where the MP has 50%+ of the votes. In 2017 only 30 MPs were elected with less than 40% of the of vote.  In the model developed by Focaldata, there could be 349 MPs elected with less than 40% of the vote.

Maybe the course of a campaign would change that. It could change all the numbers in play here. The margins in many key seats are very tight. There is much to play for but the starting point isn’t the sort of stuff that would give most election strategists a lot of confidence. One recent Tory private poll was reported to project them at 295-300 seats. In Brussels, there is now widespread fear that the UK isn’t about to get more governable the other side of a general election, whether it comes in November, December or 2020.

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