The 650 | 31st May 2017

YouGov’s surprise poll shows whoever wins the election, Theresa May will lose

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Arsenal won the FA Cup and now a YouGov projection for the Times shows the Conservatives losing their majority: somewhere there’s a Jeremy Corbyn with a lamp and one wish left.

Here are the numbers that matter:

  • Conservatives 310 (down 20)
  • Labour 257 (up 29)
  • SNP 50 (down six)
  • Liberal Democrats 10 (up two)

And in a prediction that is certain to be right, YouGov are predicting that Northern Ireland will continue to have 18 MPs. (The composition could matter a great deal – if the two Unionist parties can maintain their current parliamentary strength, which the latest LucidTalk poll for the Belfast Telegraph suggests they will, the Conservatives will be able to stagger on with the thinness of majorities.)

Elsewhere, Rob Hayward, the respected polling grandee predicts that the Conservatives will end up with a majority of 80, while ComRes and ICM continue to project Tory majorities in excess of 100.

Who’s right? Well, YouGov have yet to make their methodology public so it’s hard to understand the reasons for the divergence, and we won’t know for certain until 8 June. But in any case, at least some of the pollsters are going to discover that the tweaks they made after the debacle of 2015 haven’t worked.

(Don’t forget that after the last famous polling miss in 1992, the pollsters made a bunch of tweaks, tested them in local elections, and then overestimated the Labour vote by five points – they just got away with it because Tony Blair’s Labour was so far ahead that five points made no real difference.)

Whether the unprecedented volatility in the polls is a sign that the moves they have made to include more politically disengaged people in their samples have worked or a sign that things are awry, we’ll learn a lot about the health of political polling on 8 June.

Enough about polling methodology for now, what about the politics? The poll is shocking but we know that Theresa May is having a shocker and that Jeremy Corbyn is having a good campaign. As today’s Sun reveals, Downing Street is spooked enough that ministers have been banned from making foreign trips so they can concentrate on the campaign. It might seem unlikely but it’s not impossible that Labour could end up matching that YouGov prediction.

There’s a big but, though, and it’s this: part of Jeremy Corbyn’s surge in the polls is that he is doing a good job of adding anti-system voters, whether they be non-voters, Liberal Democrat voters, Greens or Ukip voters, none of whom have much affection for the Labour party. But he’s also doing a good job of holding onto voters who dislike him but like the Labour party. (Even a disastrous poll showing Labour on just 13 per cent among the Jewish community is actually a recovery from a poll last year showing Labour support among the community slumping to 8.5 per cent.)

Will that coalition hold together if it looks like their vote might actually result in a Labour government? Corbyn’s coalition might end like Ed Miliband’s did: leaking on all sides.

There’s really only one certainty now: whoever wins the election, Theresa May will lose.