Richard North, 08/12/2019  

It's the last Sunday before the election, and a big day for opinion polls. How interesting it is though that Savanta ComRes delivers for The Sunday Telegraph exactly the sort of result that the Tories need at this stage of the campaign.

This has the Conservatives down one point on 41 percent, with Labour on 33 percent, having closed the gap by clawing back a single point. That puts the Tories eight points ahead, enough to win them a majority of only 14 seats. Thus, according to this source, they remain in the lead but the contest is still close enough to dispel any sense of complacency that might keep some potential voters at home on the day of days.

By complete contrast, the Observer has the Tories on 46 percent with its Opinium poll, unchanged since 27 November. This gives the party a comfortable 15 point lead over Labour, which is unchanged at 31 percent.

Just to confuse everybody, though, we have another Savanta ComRes poll, this one produced by the lobby group, Remain United, to a different methodology. This poll has the Tories level-pegging at 42 percent, while Labour adds four points, bringing it to 36 percent, a mere six points behind the leaders. This actually puts the Tories behind in the seat stakes.

Then we have the YouGov poll commissioned by The Sunday Times. It puts the Conservatives on 43 percent (up one point) with Labour level-pegging this time, to deliver 33 percent, a ten-point lead for the Tories which is comfortable enough if that's what it gets in on the day.

In fact, the ST tells us that a seats projection by the data company Datapraxis, which uses almost 500,000 YouGov voter interviews, suggests a Conservative majority of 38. That is ten less than two weeks ago, the paper says, but still a solid working majority.

And finally, to round off the fifth poll that we've picked up, we have the Deltapoll UK version which gives the Conservatives 44 percent (down one point) and Labour 33 percent (up one point). That gives the Tories a slightly healthier lead of 11 points, even if Labour seems to be closing the gap.

With variations between six and 15 percent, however, the only thing that the polls have in common is that the Tories are consistently ahead, even if the six-point lead gives us a hung parliament. And while a cautious prediction might give the Tories the victory on Thursday, there is enough uncertainty to leave the result open.

Chris Hopkins, the head of politics for Savanta ComRes says that the margins are "incredibly tight" at this stage of the election. The Conservative lead over Labour dropping or increasing by one or two points, he says, "could be the difference between a hung parliament and a sizeable Conservative majority". He adds, "As we’ve seen in recent elections, the final few days of the campaign could be crucial and may still define which leader finishes 2019 as prime minister".

Certainly, there are the threats of tactical voting and the possibility of local upsets. The Observer majors on the tactical voting threat, reporting that a cross-party alliance of opposition politicians "has launched an 11th-hour appeal to anti-Tory voters to consider switching allegiance" on Thursday.

The paper sees signs of "a late surge" of tactical voting, which may or may not be the case. But it is not wrong in asserting that upsets in a few swing seats could deprive Johnson of a majority. The analysis of almost 30,000 voters, for the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign, also finds that tactical votes by as few as 40,700 people in 36 key seats could end the Tory chances of forming a majority government.

The analysis concludes that if tactical voting keeps the Tories out in the three dozen seats, the Conservatives would have 309 MPs, Labour 255, the SNP 49, the Lib-Dems 14, Plaid Cymru three and the Greens one. To guarantee a majority, a governing party needs 325 MPs.

Understandably, the Tories are taking no chances. They are launching a multi-million-pound social media offensive which will take them up to polling day, which will include a £500,000 online advertising blitz, buying a banner advert on YouTube urging voters to "end the argument" on Europe and vote Conservative to "get Brexit done".

Given that we have the baseline of the current polls – albeit very far from perfect – this might provide further evidence as to the utility (or otherwise) of social media interventions, perhaps helping to settle the argument as to whether throwing money at the internet is a waste of money.

Johnson, however, is leaving nothing to chance, making immigration a high-profile issue for the last week, setting out plans which will prevent low-skilled migrants from settling permanently in the UK.

There will be three types of visa: those with "exceptional talent" will be fast-tracked without needing a job offer. Skilled workers, such as NHS staff, would be admitted if they have a job lined up. Both these groups will be allowed to settle in Britain. But a third group, comprising unskilled workers, will only be given short-term visas in sectors where there are shortages. They will not be given leave to remain.

I'm not entirely sure that this will be the winning argument, but evidently the Tories think it will have some traction, but the offer includes banning anyone convicted of a serious crime from entering the country. How that will be administered, though, is not stated, but might prove difficult to enforce for citizens of EU Member States, as we lose access to Europol databases once Brexit takes effect.

Sending something of a mixed campaign signal, though, yesterday Johnson stopped off at Neasden temple, otherwise known as the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, a "sanctuary of vibrant Hindu worship in north-west London".

This is an obvious pitch to the Indian community, whose support he hopes to gain – with 40 seats potentially in the bag if they all vote the "right" way. He was accompanied by his girlfriend, decked out in a tasteful sari, just to prove how inclusive the couple is.

For what it's worth, the Mandir is designed and constructed entirely according to ancient Vedic architectural texts, using no structural steel whatsoever. Whether that can be taken as a symbol of Johnson's coming reign, I don't know. But, if it can, it's pretty obscure.

Prior to that, Johnson stood in a goal before a juniors girls' football match in Cheadle Hulme. As he let balls into the net, the symbolism was slightly less opaque. With that, Johnson needs all the comfort he can get, especially as the Mail on Sunday tells us that Jeremy Corbyn is "gaining ground", having closed the gap (slightly) in the battle to be PM.

This paper also conveys Tories fear that the aftermath of Storm Atiyah, threatening to bring squally weather to polling day, might keep wavering voters at home. Whether this will favour Labour or the Conservatives isn't really known, except that rainy conditions kept London "remain" voters away from the polling stations for the EU referendum. If leavers are hardier souls, perhaps Johnson will benefit.

To my mind, turnout could prove to be a (if not the) decisive factor, especially as there has been nothing in the campaign which has really set it alight, and the prevailing mood is of despondency and boredom, with widely expressed cynicism about the intentions of all parties.

In an ill-tempered election, though, Iain Duncan Smith has had to suffer a decomposing rat, sent to his office in the post. He and his Tory colleagues, may yet be hoping that their electors don't smell a rat on Thursday.

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