The final week of the campaign has been a roller coaster. The Conservatives have continued to target Labour voters in the North and Midlands whilst Labour seem to have had a relatively disciplined week with no major mishaps. An attack by terrorists in London on Saturday night led to the suspension of both the Conservative and Labour campaigns for Sunday. Both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn faced criticism whilst security has once again risen to the forefront of the public discourse and has dominated many news stories. Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn faced a studio audience at a Question Time special.
Jeremy Corbyn appeared on the One Show on Tuesday night and came across well with some good humour, he has campaigned in several key marginal seats as well as some safe Labour seats in the North. As the possibility of a hung parliament has come onto the agenda, Mr Corbyn has faced many of the questions that plagued Ed Miliband on the 2015 campaign trail. During his session on Question Time, several members of the audience asked the Labour leader if his party would do a deal with the Scottish Nationalists if it fell short of an overall majority. Mr Corbyn and several party figures refused to answer this question, commenting that Labour is focusing on winning an overall majority of its own. Security and defence have also been issues for Labour over the last week. Mr Corbyn had a difficult time when asked several times about his policy on the UK’s nuclear deterrent and past links with the IRA. In the wake of the London attack, further questions were asked about Labour’s security policy but the Labour leader promised an increase in the number of police officers and drew attention to the cuts to the police force during Theresa May’s time as Home Secretary. Other senior Labour figures, including Sadiq Khan, condemned the Conservative cuts. Diane Abbot became the source of the headlines on the final Tuesday of the campaign after another car crash interview with Sky News. Ms Abbot then withdrew from an interview on Woman’s Hour.
The Prime Minister has visited constituencies in Scotland, London and the North and has continued in her quest to target previous Labour voters. Mrs May has also visited a Conservative-held marginal seat, in Plymouth, prompting speculation that the Conservatives had become more defensive in their campaign following YouGov’s hung parliament projection. The Conservative campaign appeared considerably rebranded when the Prime Minister spoke at an event in Wolverhampton. Mrs May turned attention towards Brexit and moved away from the more presidential approach that she has been using over the last few weeks. The party confirmed that it intends to meet its immigration target by the end of the next parliament. Conservative housing minister, Gavin Barwell confirmed that the new social housing promised in the party’s manifesto would not match council house rents and would probably be much higher. This U-turn caused the party to receive some mild criticism from the press. Mrs May put in a good performance on Question Time when facing questions about Brexit but struggled when questioned on her party’s record on social care. Following the attack in London on Saturday night, Jeremy Corbyn and a former aide to David Cameron called for Theresa May to resign as Prime Minister because of the cuts that she enacted to the police whilst serving as Home Secretary. Mrs May faced further criticism when she failed to denounce Donald Trump’s Twitter attack on Sadiq Khan before she finally criticised the President’s comments this afternoon.
The Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, has campaigned in several Liberal Democrat held seats, including Sheffield Hallam, amid fears that his party may lose yet more seats. UKIP continued to campaign during the suspension in the wake of the London attack commenting that suspending the campaign would be ‘playing into the hands of terrorists.’ Paul Nuttall has called upon voters to vote tactically and vote Conservative and Nigel Farage has hinted that may return as party leader if Brexit is not delivered. The Scottish National Party has said that it will not work with the Conservatives in the event of a hung parliament and has found itself under fire from Scottish Labour about its handling of the NHS in Scotland whilst governing in Holyrood. Leanne Wood has called for voters to back Plaid Cymru for a ‘successful Brexit’.
What are the polls saying?
The polls released over the weekend gave a varying picture of where the two main parties stand. A Survation poll put the gap between Conservative and Labour at just one point whilst ComRes showed a 12-point lead. Polls from YouGov, ORB ICM and Ipsos Mori showed a lead somewhere in between. The only thing that these polls have had in common is that the Conservatives remained ahead. Labour’s rating has ranged from 34 to 40 percent whilst the Conservatives have ranged from 40 to 47 percent. On average the Conservatives remain 7 points ahead on 44 percent whilst Labour are at a post-2015 high of 37 percent. Whilst there is lots of speculation about how this could translate into seats, the collapse of UKIP to the Conservatives could lock Labour out in some of the marginals and result in a formidable Conservative majority. It is now incredibly likely that Labour will outpoll its 2015 share of the vote and it is possible, but not certain, that they will outperform their 2005 winning share. Many pundits have commented on the fact that the main difference between pollsters is the expected turnout of young people. Mrs May’s personal ratings have dropped and Mr Corbyn’s have risen slightly, although the Prime Minister still remains ahead. For the smaller parties, the situation remains roughly static with the Liberal Democrats only polling their 2015 share of the vote at just over 8 percent. UKIP are well down on their 2015 share with many of its voters switching to the Conservatives and the Greens are scoring somewhere between 1 and 2 percent.
There have been a handful of polls from Scotland which all showed the Scottish National Party in lead but well down on their 2015 share of the vote. The Conservatives remain in second place but Labour have seen an improvement, scoring roughly even with their 2015 share. One poll, from Ipsos Mori, had Labour and the Conservatives tied for second place at 25 percent each whilst the recent YouGov poll had the Conservatives on 26 percent just ahead of Labour on 25.
The latest Welsh barometer poll by YouGov had Labour slightly increasing their lead over the Conservatives to 11 points with the party a full 10 points up on its 2015 share of the vote. The Conservatives also look to increase their share in Wales but a small swing to Labour could see them pick up the most marginal seat in the country, Gower. Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens all polled lower than their 2015 performance.
Projection at the end of week 6: Conservative majority 44