Richard North, 11/12/2019  
 


With a day to go, YouGov has popped up with its multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP) model, published in today's Times.

This looks at the demographic make-up and individual characteristics of each of the 632 constituencies in Great Britain, coming up with projected vote shares for each seat. And, according to this survey, the Conservatives gain 339 seats, compared with 317 in 2017 – all with a mere 43 percent of the vote.

The current findings contrast with the similar survey published at the end of last month, on which we reported, where the prediction was that the Conservatives would win 359 seats. With the notional majority dropping from 68 to 28, that represents a significant closing of the gap between the two main parties.

In the last YouGov MRP survey, Labour was trailing with a mere 211 seats, only two more than Michael Foot got in 1983. Now, they are predicted to pick up 231 seats compared with 262 seats in 2017, based on a predicted 34 percent share of the vote. The Lib-Dems do slightly better this time round, with an estimated 15 seats as opposed to 13 in the previous survey, the SNP drop two to gain 41 seats.

Farage's little commercial enterprise gets no seats at all, staying static on three percent of the vote – although he does get as much as nine percent in some constituencies. This is what distinguishes the poll, apart from the sample size of 100,000. It looks at the individual constituencies, making predictions for each, and then building from the ground up.

It is in the nature of statistical analysis, however, that the sample size for each constituency needs to be in the order of 2,000 to produce reliable results. So while the 100K sample looks impressive, it is a perilously slender base on which to rely for constituency projections.

Nevertheless, with this detailed insight, the polling suggests the environment secretary Theresa Villiers is heading for defeat in Chipping Barnet. Other significant Conservative concerns are Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, and the former party leader Iain Duncan Smith, who are clinging to very narrow majorities.

But what makes the whole exercise rather jolly is that error range for the poll allows for 367 Tory seats at best, but the number could drop to as low as 311 – less than the party got in the last general election. That has Anthony Wells, YouGov's director of political research, telling us that, "Based on the model we cannot rule out a hung parliament".

This, of course, makes the poll an ideal instrument for the Tories in the closing stages of the election. It is enough to give supporters heart that they can win the game, but there is enough uncertainty to avoid complacency and bring the faithful out to vote. And the Tories are going to need all the help they can get, as the weather forecast is for wet and blustery conditions.

Meanwhile, Johnson has been up in Staffordshire at the JCB factory, driving a union-jack painted JCB through a wall of expanded polystyrene blocks – a barrier so insubstantial that a gust of wind would bring it down.

This was supposed to represent breaking through the blockage and "getting Brexit done". In reality, it brought the politics of Brexit to a new low, where the prime minister in office prefers inane stunts to taking time out to explain to the electorate what he intends to do. It also demonstrated that many journalists don't know the difference between a front-end loader and a bulldozer.

If the politicians had any ideas of injecting a note of reality into the campaign though, it is now almost too late to make a difference. But there is no sign of this happening. In the last full day of campaigning – before the merciful silence for most of the day on Thursday - the party leaders and their acolytes are rushing up and down the country trying to enthuse supporters, with yet more inane stunts.

The Times, though, thinks its finding will "set the last 24 hours of the five-week campaign alight". This entails Johnson rushing up to Yorkshire to take part in an early morning milk round – another opportunity to don fancy dress.

Doubtless, bored journalists will be searching for another photograph with which to bounce Johnson – anything to break the tedium of yet another contrived stunt, or a rally in front hand-picked supporters, where media representatives are the greater part of the crowd.

Thus, while Johnson is warning that "Britain" will face a lost decade if Jeremy Corbyn triumphs in the election, we must suffer a propaganda re-launch, where existing promises are repackaged to form a "six-point plan" for the country that includes delivering Brexit and providing 50,000 more nurses and 20,000 extra police officers.

That leaves one more day of reporting of one of the most chaotic and uninspiring election campaigns in living memory, where most normal people are simply counting down the hours until it ends.

Whether the election is then "close fought" depends as much as anything on the turnout, and we will see whether people hold their noses and vote for the "least worst" or stay at home in disgust, not wanting anything to do with this unholy charade.

Although it is being called by some commentators the "most important election in a generation", it is also probably the worst fought, with neither of the two parties offering credible positions on the key matter of Brexit.

Only now, for instance, is the customs position between Northern Ireland and Great Britain beginning to be critically explored and, even though Johnson is lying through his teeth about there being no checks on goods travelling from GB to Northern Ireland, no-one seems to be prepared to call him out for the liar that he is.

And where some people might have been looking to the Brexit Party for salvation, it too is mired by a steady drip of adverse publicity, with a late report from Bristol pointing out that none of the Brexit Party 2019 general election candidates standing there actually live in the city.

On the other hand, The Sun gleefully reports that the Brexit Party founder is urging Leave voters to back the Tories after accusing Nigel Farage of going on a "monumental ego trip".

This is Catherine Blaiklock, who set up the party earlier this year, registering its name and becoming its official owner. She has turned on her former friend as well as the Brexit Party's chairman yesterday to say: "Nigel and Richard Tice's whole strategy has been a disaster". And with more sense than The Great Leader can muster, she says: "Nigel has failed catastrophically, because you're not going to get a WTO Brexit. You have to compromise".

Elsewhere, the BBC tells us that candidates are complaining of unprecedented levels of abuse. But politicians really ought to be reflecting on how long they can continue treating the electorate with utter contempt, and whether their conduct might have something to do with the way people respond to them.

The trouble is, of course, that when all politicians behave in much the same way, and truth becomes an optional extra, politics gets so debased that cynicism builds to a level where people lose faith in the whole political process. We are probably not very far from that stage now, where nothing seems real and nothing is to be believed.

Still, as we count down the hours, we can take comfort in the fact that not even a nightmare lasts forever.






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The Many, Not the Few