Election Post #3: Week Three

May 11, 2017

Diane Abbot's gaffe in an interview on LBC dominated the news during the first few days of the third week of the campaign but the local election results on Thursday provided the headlines for the rest of the week. In an unprecedented night for an incumbent government, the Conservatives made big gains across the country whilst Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP went backwards. The Conservatives gained eleven councils including Warwickshire, Cambridgeshire, Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire. A big factor in the rise of the Conservative vote and number of council seats was the collapse in the UKIP vote. In Scotland, the SNP remained in first place but Labour were replaced in second place by the Conservatives, whose vote-share increased by 12 percent. Parliament was officially dissolved on Wednesday 3rd May and the Prime Minister visited the Queen to officially mark the occasion. 

For Labour, it was a poor week. Diane Abbot's LBC interview in which she was unable to correctly recall the cost of an additional 10,000 police officers received widespread ridicule and was heavily covered by the press. As that news began to subside, the local elections on 4th May provided more negative coverage for the party. Labour lost 382 seats across England, Wales and Scotland and lost overall control of 7 councils. In the immediate aftermath, senior party figures such as John McDonnell and Emily Thornberry emphasised certain good areas of the result with McDonnell commenting that they were patchy and apologised to the councillors that lost their seats. McDonnell then went on to blame the poor results on the 'unbalanced media'. There were, however, some good results for Labour with the party holding the Doncaster and North Tyneside mayoralties and winning two of the new combined authority mayoralties in Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region. The party failed to win, however, the mayoralties in the traditionally Labour areas of Tees Valley and the West Midlands. Jeremy Corbyn has continued to make lots of references to a 'rigged system', in an attempt to cement his image as an outsider. 

Mrs May made the unprecedented move of accusing the European Union of 'deliberately' trying to interfere in the election; this is the first time since 1924, at the end of the first Labour government under Ramsay MacDonald, that there has been an accusation of 'foreign interference' in a British election. After their phenomenal performance at the local elections, many Conservatives played down the significance of the results. Sir Michael Fallon referred to them as 'encouraging progress' but along with others, refused to accept that his party had done well. Indeed, the Conservatives seem to be talking up Jeremy Corbyn's chances of victory with lots of references to a 'coalition of chaos' in order to ensure that their vote turns out on 8th June; one advert showed Brexit, President Trump and Jeremy Corbyn alongside the words 'shock win'. Following Emmanuel Macron's victory in France on Sunday, the Prime Minister admitted that Calais border controls may be up for discussion in the Brexit negotiations. Mrs May has also pledged to scrap the Mental Health Act and replace it with new legislation. 

For the smaller parties, the week has been relatively quiet. Tim Farron was approached by an angry Brexit-voter on Wednesday (3rd May) and suffered an unfortunate fall whilst walking down the Liberal Democrat battle bus on live television. Sir Vince Cable hit the headlines as a tape was revealed with him reportedly encouraging voters to vote Labour in constituencies where they had a better chance of defeating the Conservatives than the Liberal Democrats. The Green party has continued to call for a 'progressive alliance' and stood down candidates in some seats to decrease the Conservative chances of winning. UKIP lost over 130 seats at the local elections with many of its voters migrating to the Conservatives. Paul Nuttall's party has taken a similar move to the Greens and has stood down in some constituencies (particularly those where the candidate is a Brexiteer) encouraging voters to go with the Conservatives. 

What are the polls saying?

At the end of the third week of the campaign, the Conservative lead remained high at 17 points over Labour. One poll, from ICM, had the Conservatives on 49 percent. Other polls conducted in the week tended to have the Conservative around 46 percent, still around 9 points up from their 2015 performance (GB). Again, most of the polls released this week have been better news for Labour than when the election was called. Their average has risen to just over 28 percent, and most polls now have the party between 28 and 31 percent. Although this would still be a low for the party and down from their 2015 vote share, it would be far from the cataclysmic 25 percent that was being projected a few weeks ago. 5 of the last 10 polls have had Labour at 30 percent or greater, with 9 polls having the party on or over 28 percent. Only one TNS poll, perhaps an outlier, had the party on 24 percent. The Liberal Democrats have seen a very slight decline and UKIP have increased slightly, but both parties have remained roughly static in third and fourth place respectively. The Greens have remained at the same level as last week (2.8 percent). 

YouGov conducted another poll of Wales between 5th and 7th May, again this showed Conservatives ahead but with a lead of 6 points rather than the 10 projected 2 weeks ago. The Conservatives saw their share rise one point (from the last poll) to 41 percent and Labour saw theirs rise by five points. Plaid Cymru, UKIP, the Liberal Democrats and Greens all saw their share decline, suggesting polarisation to the two major parties. 

Another interesting poll came from YouGov in the way of London's voting intention. This poll showed Labour ahead on 41 percent, down slightly from 2015 with the Conservatives on 36, slightly up from 2015. The biggest change in the poll was the Liberal Democrat share which was at 14 percent, double that which the party achieved in 2015. UKIP and the Greens were both shown as down on their 2015 performance. These figures suggest that Labour remains healthy in London but the party could lose a handful of marginal seats in the capital (perhaps as many as four) to the Conservatives if UKIP's vote collapses in a similar way to how it did in Thursday's local elections. 

There have been no polls from Scotland this week.

Projection at the end of week 3: Conservative Majority of 124.

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