May2015 Authors

All posts by Glen O’Hara

The 650 | 25th May 2017

Labour must be wary of focusing on vote share – it’s seats that matter

The last couple of weeks have seen a potential Labour rout turn into a mere defeat, as the party climbs in the polls to stand some way clear of its 2015 share of 31.2%: at the moment, an average of the last six polls taken before the tragic events in Manchester puts Labour on 33.8%. This is a long way behind the Conservatives’ score 45.3%, to be sure, but that represents a swing to the Government of only 2.5% or so since 2.5%.

It is important to be clear about where these voters are coming from, as we seem to live in an era when ‘classic’ swing voters who alternate between the Conservatives and Labour seem few and far between. Although the Conservatives’ vote share is being swollen by defectors from the United Kingdom Independent Party, Labour are benefiting from smaller numbers returning to them from the same source, and from some left-leaning Liberal Democrats and Greens attracted by Jeremy Corbyn’s new-look Labour Party.

So although the Conservatives have surged to a share of the vote they have not really dreamed of since the 1980s, Labour has been chasing them upwards.

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The 650 | 4th May 2017

Is Labour really as doomed as it seems? The polls have got it wrong before

Pollsters often overrate Labour’s performance. But in two elections, the opposite happened.

Few moments in the Labour Party’s history can have felt as gloomy as this one. Going into a general election that almost no-one expects them to win, their overall opinion polling is appalling. Labour seems becalmed in the mid-20s; the Conservative Party has rocketed into the mid- to high-40s, and has even touched 50 per cent in one survey.

The numbers underlying those voting intention figures seem, if anything, worse. The Conservatives have huge leads on leadership and economic competence – often even more reliable indicators of election results than the headline numbers. High turnout groups such as the over-65s have turned against Labour in unprecedented numbers. Working-class Brits have swung towards the Conservative, placing once-safe Labour seats in danger. There are limited, but highly suggestive, hints among the data that the swing against Labour is higher in its own marginal seats – a potentially toxic development for any party seeking to hang on to MPs, as Conservatives defending apparently impregnable majorities under John Major in 1997 would attest.

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