7 May 2015

The first mass tactical vote in UK history?

Labour people are stunned by the BBC exit poll, and saying it does not tally with their experience in the key marginals they are fighting. After the shock of seeing it, I think many of them would accept the rival, YouGov one.

It’s early days. The BBC poll, if correct, tells a story of widespread switching from UKIP to the Conservatives, and from Lib Dem to the Conservatives, in both cases probably driven by a desire to ensure a majority government to keep the SNP out of influencing a Labour-led coalition.

That is plausible – but if correct it will reflect one of the first mass tactical votes in UK history. It’s been clearly helped by calls from the right-wing press but my sense right now is that, while it might be right tendentially, it would be truly mould-breaking if it was correct.

What it would mean is that (a) the SNP have destroyed everybody else in Scotland and (b) in fear of that a lot of centrist English voters have voted tactically for the Tories in response.

That would not just put Scotland on an exit path from the UK. It would put – again I stress if correct – the Conservatives in a position to govern with the DUP and the two projected UKIP members. That is, it would harden Euroscepticism and social conservatism in government.

On top of that it will create a new dynamic in Wales. Welsh Labour will have to come up with a new story to tell people in the principality if the BBC-version comes to pass: it basically means Labour has no future chance of winning a majority in Westminster as long as Scotland is the driving issue of Westminster elections.

But, as I say, we have to be hugely skeptical of a poll so at odds with all the other opinion polls, and indeed at odds with a perfectly respectable YouGov one.