Cautious Tories still heading for a majority
Unless something earth-shattering happens in the next 10 days, the Tories are going to win big. Lexington's Mike Craven analyses this week's developments in our general election update.
This should have been the week when things started to move if we were to see a repeat of the 2017 shock result. Instead, the YouGov poll of 100,000 voters whose methodology more accurately predicted the 2017 outcome merely confirmed the other opinion polls. Unless something earth-shattering happens in the next 10 days, the Tories are going to win big.
Unlike 2017, the Tories are playing a safety first game. The manifesto published last Sunday contained no surprises and nothing to worry target voters (though there may be some reckless commitments which return to haunt them in the next parliament). The nervousness about exposing the Prime Minister to a forensic interrogation by the BBC’s Andrew Neill is also a reflection of extreme cautiousness. Campaign managers know that refusing to appear will annoy journalists and cause a big row in London but will probably pass most voters by. The confected row today about Channel 4’s refusal to allow Michael Gove to substitute for Boris Johnson in the climate change debate was a well-executed tactic to divert attention from the Andrew Neill issue.
Labour’s campaign has shown no signs of getting its act together. Jeremy Corbyn’s own interview with Andrew Neill was a very poor performance where the Labour Leader struggled to answer questions either on anti-semitism or the party’s plan to shell out £50 billion on women pensioners who had suffered when the retirement age was harmonised. He also had to confirm that people earning less than £80,000 a year would have to pay more tax. His biggest problem again was dealing with the anti-Semitism issue and in particular the extraordinary intervention by the Chief Rabbi’s who described a ‘new poison’ of anti-semitism in the party. Labour candidates report that hostility to the Labour Leader is much more marked than in 2017.
Journalists reported yesterday that Labour was shifting its strategy to a defensive one of trying to persuade Leave voters in Labour heartlands that it hadn’t become a Remain party and the Tories were still the enemy. But this merely underlines the confusion at the heart of Labour’s Brexit policy, trying to appeal top both Remain and Leave voters and satisfying neither. There is a suggestion from some insiders that yesterday’s briefing was the beginning of getting in the excuses for the election defeat - we lost because traditional Labour pro-Brexit voters rebelled against the metropolitian Remainers. If so, expect this to intensify as we approach the last week.
The Lib Dems seem to have been missing in action. Their new leader, Jo Swinson, has failed to make any impact. To be fair this is partly due to the way the impartiality rules are being interpreted by the broadcasters - the two big parties are given much more airtime than the Liberal Democrats. The YouGov poll was also very disappointing for them but, as our own polling expert Greg Cook pointed out this week, the model with just 150 or so voters on the panel for each seat cannot easily predict individual seat outcomes. The Lib Dems who received endorsement from Tory big beast Michael Heseltine this week still hope to cause some upsets particularly in Remain seats in London.
Next week is the last full week of the campaign. Labour need the weekend polls to show some forward momentum if they are to have any chance of preventing a Tory landslide. As John Curtice points out in this morning’s Times, there remains real danger for the Conservatives. Many of the YouGov projections about individual seats show the Tories holding them with small majorities. Just a four point drop in the Tory lead could produce a hung parliament. And the Tory lead has narrowed, if only a little, this week.