Election Post #1: Week One

April 25, 2017

Only a week ago, Mrs May shocked the country with the announcement that she would be seeking a General Election on 8th June. Immediately after the statement, a YouGov poll put the Conservatives 24 points ahead of Labour on 48 percent. Most political commentators and pundits have predicted that the Conservatives will crush Labour and return with an overall majority somewhere in the region of 100. Recent opinion polling certainly suggests that this is likely to be the case with many in the Labour Party bracing themselves for their worst defeat since 1983 at the hands of Margaret Thatcher. 

Opinion polls released in the immediate aftermath of the Prime Minister's announcement showed the Conservatives well over 40 percent and with a lead of around 18 points over Labour. Current projections suggest that the Conservatives will win 400 seats to Labour's 172 but as campaigning began, Jeremy Corbyn struck a defiant tone. After being introduced at an event in London as 'our future prime minister', Mr Corbyn answered questions about Labour's poor polling position by pointing out that in 2015, he given odds of '200 to 1' to become party leader. Of course, this was in a contest of Labour party members, rather than the wider electorate but it is clear that Mr Corbyn is trying to present himself as the anti-establishment figure. Several Labour MPs, such as Iain Wright, Gisela Stuart and Alan Johnson announced their intention to stand down but despite predictions, the party entered the campaign with a 'fight to win' attitude. Divisions over the UK's Trident defence system surfaced over the weekend, but were quickly brushed over in a statement from Labour HQ which stated that there would be a commitment to trident in the party's manifesto. 

The Conservatives have wasted no time in reusing their 'coalition of chaos' message from 2015 and have immediately begun to capitalise on the perceived weakness of the Labour Leadership During an interview on Good Morning Britain, the defence secretary- Michael Fallon, branded Jeremy Corbyn a 'security risk'. Mrs May's decision not to take part in any televised debates with the other party leaders sparked a small controversy and a petition was launched. Despite this, opinion polls released after the announcement that there would be no debates involving the Prime Minister have shown no significant decrease in support for the Conservatives. Entering the campaign, the party appears united and Mrs May is keen to champion herself as a safe pair of hands and the right person to deal with the upcoming negotiations between Britain and the European Union. There have been hints that some 2015 promises such as the commitment to low taxes will be dropped this time around. 

The Liberal Democrats have focused on the issue of Brexit and their promise of a second referendum. Tim Farron has had a difficult week, refusing to say whether he thinks gay sex is a sin during an interview with Sky's Darren McCaffrey. Liz Kendall branded Farron's refusal to answer the question as offensive whilst Michael Gove commented that as a churchgoer himself, he felt it would be perfectly feasible for Mr Farron to say that 'gay sex is not a sin'. UKIP's Paul Nuttall has also caused controversy in stating that the party supports a ban on the Burqa. The Green party has called for a progressive alliance with the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and Labour but Labour has rejected any formal coalition with the SNP. The Liberal Democrats have also ruled out any post-election coalition with either Labour or the Conservatives. 

What are the polls saying?

In the week since the General Election was announced, there have been several opinion polls released. Our polling average currently has the Conservatives on 46.7 percent, with Labour 20.2 points behind on 26.5, the Liberal Democrats are at 10.8 percent whilst UKIP have sunk to 7.2 percent. In a poll by ComRes between 19th and 20th April, the Conservatives hit the magic 50 percent, double of Labour's 25 percent. This was the highest poll rating for the Conservatives since January 1991. This would see the Conservatives returned with a parliamentary majority of around 200 and Labour heading to a seat total close to the 154 won by Clement Attlee in 1935. On the face of it, the Conservative lead certainly appears to be unbeatable but, as the campaign begins to take hold and various events occur, it may begin to shrink. It is difficult, however, to see Labour overtaking the Conservatives and at present, it seems a stretch for them to get above their 2015 performance of 30.4 percent. In the two-option YouGov poll taken after the election was called from 18-19th April, Mrs May scored 54 percent to Mr Corbyn's 15. 

In Scotland, there have been two polls released since the General Election was called. One by Panelbase and one by Survation. Both polls had the SNP in first place, but down on their 2015 Scottish vote share by around 7 percent. Astonishingly, the Conservatives were on 33 percent in the Panelbase poll and 28 percent in the Survation poll. If this were to play out on election day, Professor John Curtice has surmised that around 12 Scottish seats could come into contention for the Conservatives if their vote share was at this level. If were to take this many seats, it would be the best Scottish Conservative performance since 1983 and a Conservative vote share of 31.4 percent or above would be the best since 1979. For Labour, both polls made for grim reading and the party looks set to lose its remaining seat in Scotland, Edinburgh South. The Liberal Democrats look set to pick up a couple of seats in Scotland, but these may simply counteract losses in England. 

The shock poll of the first week of the campaign was a YouGov poll taken in Wales which had the Conservatives on 40 percent, 10 points ahead of Labour. Labour have won the popular vote in Wales at every General Election since 1922 and a Conservative upset here would mark a major shift in Welsh politics. Breaking the poll down further suggests that many 2015 UKIP voters are returning to the Conservatives and with Wales voting to leave the European Union, this comes as no surprise. In terms of seats, the YouGov poll suggests that the Conservatives will take 21 to Labour's 15. Plaid Cymru would also take Ynys Mon from Labour with the Liberal Democrats would hold Ceredigion. Wales will be an area to watch on election night and it will be interesting to see more data as it becomes available.

Projection at the end of week one: Conservative Majority of 148.

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