A Tale of Two Polls

There have been two much-publicised polls in recent days which have produced headlines in the press for their common message that the Conservative government is in deep trouble. A Survation Poll suggested that there would be just 98 Conservative MPs after the next election. The other, a YouGov Poll, suggested that the Conservatives would win 155 MPs. Quite a large difference, but in either case adding up to huge Conservative losses, and that is what the media have concentrated on. If they’ve mentioned any other party, it has been the Reform Party and its effect as a ‘spoiler’ of the Conservative vote.

What was much less commented upon was the fact that these two polls, both published at the beginning of April, and both based upon interviews conducted during mid-March, were widely divergent in their estimates of how the third and fourth parties (in terms of seats in the House of Commons) would fare. The YouGov poll suggested that the SNP would win 19 seats, a substantial loss compared to 2019, while the Lib Dems would win 49, restoring them to third-party status. The Survation Poll, on the other hand, had the SNP maintaining third-party status, losing only 7 seats (from 48 to 41), while the Lib Dems, despite doubling their seats to 22, remained very much in fourth position.

It might be thought that the massive discrepancy over the projected seats for Lib Dems and the SNP in these two polls would arouse some interest in the media. Yet it hasn’t. The only thing that hit the headlines was the coming Labour landslide (of which the politics guru John Curtice appears to be 99% certain now) and the huge Tory losses. No one pretends that these aren’t the main finding of the two polls, but the question of who comes third and fourth matters too.

If the Survation poll is right, then the SNP will continue to be the party with the largest number of Scottish seats at Westminster (more than two-thirds of the 59 available). It will have more seats than it did in 2017 and only 7 fewer than the 48 it won in 2019. It will claim that because it has an overwhelming majority of Scottish seats, independence is still favoured by most of the Scottish people (this is not true but is one of the pernicious results of the First Past the Post system, which artificially boosts parties that are geographically concentrated and undermines those with a broad nationwide appeal). It will remain the third party in the House of Commons, with associated privileges, and will doubtless continue to be a vocal presence there.

If, on the other hand, the YouGov poll is right, the SNP will be reduced to less than one-third of the Scottish seats. It will be much more difficult for it to be the ‘voice of Scotland.’ The Lib Dems, on the other hand, with 49 seats, will replace it as the third party and will become once again a powerful grouping, close to its numbers in the late 1990s and 2000s.

As for which of the two polls is right, it’s a fool’s game to predict results, but for what it’s worth I’d suggest that YouGov has the better estimates. A party that is, for whatever reason, the object of a lot of criticism and negative feeling, such as the SNP in Scotland and the Conservatives in England and Wales, will feel the heat through tactical voting and that will almost certainly mean a lot of votes being piled onto whoever came second last time. In Scotland, the main beneficiary will probably be Labour, but this is much less clear in England. Does it really make sense for Survation to project that a lot of West Country seats, for instance, including rural heartlands where Labour has been a poor third in the past, will suddenly decide that the best way of getting the Conservatives out is to vote Labour? Only one Lib Dem seat (St Ives) in Devon and Cornwall? Central Devon, South Devon, South-West Devon, South-East Cornwall all to go Labour? I doubt it. When the Conservative dominoes fall in the West Country, the Lib Dems will surely be the main beneficiary.

I would therefore expect the Lib Dems to be the third party after the next election, and with a solid number of MPs. This is something that matters. They will have the opportunity to show their effectiveness in Parliament and could form the basis for a coalition (hopefully a radical one) in a government further down the line. Similarly, a substantial drop in the vote for the SNP will strengthen those who want to combine devolution with a commitment to the future of the UK as a multi-national state. That matters too. There is more to this tale of two polls than the 99% likelihood of a Labour government or the collapse of the Conservatives.

* Mark Corner is a UK national, who teaches economic history and philosophy at the University of Leuven, is married to a Czech EU official and lives in Brussels. He has just published A Tale of Two Unions suggesting that Brexit may damage the British Union unless the UK becomes more positive about the way the European Union is structured.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • David Symonds 11th Apr '24 - 10:09am

    The only fair voting system is PR and i favour STV so that no votes are wasted and FPTP delivers distorted results and exaggerating the winning margins. At the same time if Labour gets say 45% and 70% of seats they will conveniently ditch PR talk and govern for their sectional interests in the way the Tories have done. Britain’s corrosive electoral and governance must be removed in order for real democracy and the cosy duopoly of Tory and Labour can end. They secretly like each other even though they say they hate each other as they use the “bogey” factor on the doorsteps to frighten their supporters to vote for them to “keep out the other lot”. Dreadful.

  • The YouGov poll places us very close in 2nd places in another 20 odd seats which gives us, on their calculations up to 70! I only expect maybe 20 and would see 25 as a wonderful result. Hope I am wrong.
    I agree the Scottish return on Survation is strange, although the latest polling has Yes for Independence 2% ahead.
    What will happen if Reform come a good second or even win the coming Blackpool South by election. It will surely be curtains for the Prime Minister.

  • I support proportional representation but my issue with stv is that in practise it can produce results which aren’t that proportional (eg TUV getting 8% of votes but only 1% of seats). I also dislike the term “wasted votes” as it is a difficult concept to sell. My preference is the way Germany and New Zealand use the additional member system. They avoid the pitfalls Scotland fell into by dealing with the overhang. Also, if you want to protect proportionality the country can’t be split in to areas for the party vote. Most MPs are constituency MPs. Anyone interested in AMS/MMP should look at the process NZ used to determine the way forward. The NZ public voted for AMS/MMP above STV by a marging of more than 4 to 1. Referendums aren’t always bad. They just need to be organised properly with a process set in place at the outset for each of the possible directions. It’s a pity David Cameron didn’t spend 5 minutes googling NZ electoral reform referendum!

  • I think it will be extremely difficult to predict how well or badly the SNP will do at the general election because support for Scottish independence has remained around the 50% mark despite support for the SNP falling to the low 30s. If the SNP is able to persuade pro-independence voters to hold their noses and vote SNP, they could still win a good majority of Scottish seats due to FPTP and a the Unionist vote being split between Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.

  • Demographic changes in the West Country have favoured Labour so yes in many seats they will be the go to party to get the Tories out and indeed elsewhere they may leapfrog the Lib Dems in a number of seats due to the partys current lack of momentum and relevance.

  • Laurence Cox 11th Apr '24 - 12:03pm

    When we read the predictions for number of seats in the next Parliament based on MRP models, we must not be taken in by the hype. Compared with conventional polling it has a very short history dating back just two Westminster elections. In 2017 YouGov’s MRP model was almost spot-on, over-estimating Labour by 7 seats and under-estimating the Tories by 16 seats. What did not get as much publicity was that Lord Ashcroft’s MRP model over-estimated the Tories by 39 seats and underestimated Labour by 40 seats. In 2019 YouGov’s MRP polling was fractionally better than Focal Data’s, underestimating the Tories by 26 seats against 28 seats and overestimating Labour by 29 seats against 33 seats. Every other MRP model apart from those mentioned has no track-record so we have no idea how they will perform in a real General Election. While Survation are a well-regarded pollster this lack of a track-record against real votes in real ballot boxes means we should take their model output with a pinch of salt. Even for YouGov we might expect a standard deviation in the range of 20-30 seats for the two main parties, based on the two samples so far.

  • Laurence Cox 11th Apr '24 - 12:04pm

    The other big advantage of STV not shared with other proportional systems like AMS is that it puts in the hands of the voter the order of preference between candidates from the same party. AMS systems like that used in the Scottish Parliament put in the hands of the party the power to order their list candidates. There is actually only one disadvantage of STV; that the constituencies become large in rural areas e.g. a Westminster constituency covering the whole of Cornwall, but that is a trade-off between constituency size and proportionality.

  • Matt (Bristol) 11th Apr '24 - 1:09pm

    There is a risk that Labour, with its bigger ‘brand’ and less reliance on a small force of footsoldiers / deliverers to win elections by saturation campaigning, could win seats in the south, southwest and southeast, if the Tories do totally collapse and the Lib Dems cannot mobilise enough activists, or are faced with targetting dilemmas. Whether this is permanent is another question, as – assuming the Tory woes last more than one term, which is maybe a big assumption but not impossible – a Starmer second term could see some buyers’ remorse in the ex-Tory seats and a Lib Dem party starting from a higher base in terms of seats may have the ability to attract more resources and members than it does now. Do the Lib Dems want such voters, though? Is it compatible with the priorities and policies of their hard-core activist base? (Also, what would the Greens and Reform be doing in such a scenario).

  • More detailed polling shows that most of those who do support Scottish Independence aren’t very interested in it right now. And successful polling where more detailed questions are asked suggest that a lot of those who theoretically support independence do so in name only. They want to keep the pound and the British army, and don’t want another referendum. Higher polling for independence is usually associated with more ‘don’t knows’ rather than an actual increase in people eager for separation.

    YouGov said they made adjustments to account for a known flaw in MRP, and seems more realistic for seats I have understanding of, but it still can’t fully account for tactical voting or targeted campaigns for boundary changes.

  • Jenny Barnes 11th Apr '24 - 2:07pm

    A large part of the electorate seems to be looking for an expression of their desire for a left wing economic programme: nationalisation of things like water and domestic energy, strong funding for the NHS, good quality local government and social care, mend the roads, public transport – combined with a right wing back to basics type social programme
    against immigration, strong policing and anti crime agenda, against recreational drugs and so on.

    Conservative. Labour and LibDem all offer much the same blend of neoliberal economics – Privatisation, low taxes on the rich, combined with social policies that vary from slightly liberal with a right wing froth, not very liberal and our more liberal approach. The nearest to this left economic/right social platform on offer is probably Reform, mores the pity.

  • Paul Barker 11th Apr '24 - 2:14pm

    On topic, the lack of interest in the difference between these two Polls tells you all you need to know about “British” Journalists – most of them are smug, lazy, innumerate & not much interested in what happens outside Islington.

    On which Poll is more likely to be Right – I suggest playing with the predictive facility on the “Electoral Calculus” site, especially the more sophisticated version which allows for Tactical Voting & treats Scotland separately.

    I have tried a range of assumptions from pessimistic to optimistic & its hard to get Libdem figures below 40 Seats or above 60 for that matter. TheSNP get below 20.

  • To be honest if you are a liberal who is of a radical centrist or OB point of view then you are probably happy enough with Starmer, Reeves Streeting and co and therefore wavering in your support.

  • Peter Martin 11th Apr '24 - 2:34pm

    It’s impossible for anyone to predict the number of seats the minority parties like the Lib Dems and Reform will win unless the pollsters conduct their surveys in individual constituencies.

    Any party winning 15%, or lower, could end up with 50 MPs or they could have none. It really all depends on how unevenly their votes are distributed. The more uneven they are the better the outcome in terms of MPs elected. The SNP naturally benefit as all their votes are in Scottish constituencies.

    The political left could also benefit if they do well in certain constituencies with a high Moslem vote and if they can create a bandwagon effect in some of the Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and London constituencies.

  • One thing that hasn’t been talked about much is that survation phrases their poll differently from most other opinion polls, including other survation polls. According to Best for Britain, who commissioned the poll the exact question asked was “Thinking about the different political parties in the UK, which party would you vote for in the next General Election?”

    Normally they don’t ask the opening bit, but it’s possible that it prompts voters tho think about the national picture and pick the party they want to win nationally.

    The survation poll pretty much deserves to be disregarded completely in any case, whilst all MRP polls suggest that many people wanting labour to win aren’t currently thinking about voting tactically for us, survation does so by such a ridiculous amount that it thinks labour will win the likes of Hazel Grove and Woking from a distant third! Yougov by contrast suggests we will win these two by a massive 20 point margin, which is much more realistic and tracks with local election results.

    The only other MRP that looks credible is that of electoral calculus (not their live seat predictor but the MRP poll they conducted in February)
    This gives similar results to yougov but suggests a better performance for the greens, especially in their target seats.

  • @Peter Martin

    “The political left could also benefit if they do well in certain constituencies with a high Moslem vote and if they can create a bandwagon effect in some of the Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and London constituencies”

    It’s insane that we’re not doing this right now, we have a much better policy on Palestine than labour, we should be screening it from the rooftops in Muslim and metropolitan left leaning areas!
    Rebuilding part of our post Iraq coalition in advance of labour getting in would be invaluable for winning seats from them next time!
    The danger is we’ll fall back behind the greens in these seats, and once that happens they’ll target them like crazy and shut us out for good like they’ve already done in Bristol.

  • Peter Msrtin 12th Apr '24 - 2:18am

    @ David LG,

    You do have a better policy on Palestine than Labour. At least under Starmer’s version of it.

    However I doubt if Ed Davey wants this to be widely known. That’s why he’s not shouting about it.

    Ir would upset too many of the erstwhile Tory voters he’s targeting. There plenty to be said about Starmer but it won’t come from the Lib Dems.

    I’m hoping to be wrong about that!

  • Rif Winfield 12th Apr '24 - 8:30am

    One of the real problems with FPTP is that when any party wins somewhat in the region of 20%, a shift of just one or 2 percentage in the swings can mean the gain or loss of dozens of seats. Like Paul, I have experimented with small changes on the “Electoral Calculus” site, and it is fascinating to see where it can predict massive changes in the numbers of Conservative holds with just small changes in the overall vote – everything from retaining around 150 seats to a Canadian 1993-type near wipeout. Personally I’d go with something close to the YouGov calculations rather than Survation, but at level the Conservatives could lose scores of seats very easily with slight drop in overall support. Watch out post-general election for a sudden rise in Tory support for PR!
    Where I differ from some others is that I don’t rate the chances of the Greens actually succeeding. With Caroline Lucas standing down, the chances of the Greens retaining Brighton Pavilion are low (just look at the Brighton local election results, which were a setback for the Greens there while they were gaining elsewhere), so they desperately need to win that Bristol seat in order to retain a foothold in the Commons.

  • Alex Macfie 12th Apr '24 - 8:39am

    @Martin Bennett 11th Apr ’24 – 1:02pm: “Mired as we are on 10%, the Survation poll looks much more realistic,” not when you look at the tabs it doesn’t. It has Labour winning from a very distant 3rd place in Hazel Grove, among many other implausible predictions. In Richmond Park it has the Labour vote ballooning from 5% to >22%. Labour has no Councillors in Twickenham & Richmond Borough, and hardly any local organisation. Even the YouGov poll estimate of the likely constituency Labour vote share at 12% seems rather high. The Survation predictions (which also include swings to the Tories in Labour’s inner-city Deep Red Wall) in are not reflected by vote shifts seen in local by-elections, for instance, and make little intuitive sense.
    Peter Kellner has written on this Tale of Two Polls here

    Yes we need to run a well targeted campaign to make sure we do benefit from the likely Tory collapse where we are best positioned to do so. But we shouldn’t panic over a prediction based on broad-brush assumptions rather than any local insight.

  • Alex Macfie 12th Apr '24 - 9:04am

    @Marco 11th Apr ’24 – 2:15pm: Maybe but voters regardless of political leaning are not likely to switch from Lib Dems to Labour in the full knowledge that Labour are the clear challengers. The only group that stubbornly clings to Labour in such a scenario is the Labour loyalist/apparatchik crowd for whom Lib Dems (and Liberals before them) are Tories under another banner.

  • Israel~Palestine is one of those issues that one either cares about passionately or not at all. The majority of voters probably fall into the latter category. Anyone who is a cheerleader for Israel’s present government is unlikely to vote for us (as a Private Eye cartoon suggests, rather than “Israel’s right to exist” they support “Israel’s [political] right”). We may be able to get some traction among progressive voters with our clearly stated position on the conflict, although the “From the * to the *” crowd might consider our nuanced position (which is pro-peace rather than pro-Palestine, and against the extremists on both sides) to be a “sell-out”.

  • Getting candidates to prioritise efforts in target constituencies is one thing, but there’s plenty of scope for local activists to ignore it. Either they don’t get the hint or they still think we need punished for the coalition, or ego gets in the way.

    The claim is a good way of sending a message to smarter candidates and activists, but I doubt it has teeth, and I can’t see anyone being deselected once we are in the election period. However, it does give me a bit more confidence that the Labour leadership at least intends to be sensible about the election.

  • Something that concerns me is how many people in our target seats don’t seem to realise what the situation is in their area. I listen to LBC quite a lot. It’s a station that is not virulently against us. However, in one day there were callers from target or held seats, including Yeovil, St Alban’s and Surrey, who didn’t want to vote Conservative but didn’t even mention us in their discussion with the programme host. Some mentioned the Greens. Some mentioned Reform. None mentioned us. The host didn’t mention us. We have to up our game.

  • David Symonds 12th Apr '24 - 11:43am

    Good points all round though in terms of proportionality, i feel that the AMS top up is not dissimilar to the party list systems used in many countries which put the candidates elected as controlled by the party. So they go in the order the party wants under d’Hondt. That surely is the case in Germany with AMS as it is in London, Scotland and Wales too. STV puts the voter in charge and the elector can choose candidates in the party or across parties, ensuring a wide spread of opinions.

  • The problem we face, and it is highlighted in the article and several of the comments here is ‘Why are we so invisible?’

    The answer is actually quite simple and it is the failure of our party’s entire strategy since Brexit.

    Starting from a point of being absolutely right in our assessment of Brexit throughout –

    1) Brexit will be very bad for our country, economy, international standing etc,
    2) The Conservatives are incompetent chancers with no grown ups left and will make a total mess of it,
    3) The UK’s urgent need for progress and the Conservatives’ desperate need to pretend they are solving the post-Brexit mess, coupled with the total lack of any civil servants with experience of negotiating trade deals, will lead to totally one sided deals being agreed.
    (all facts that were known and understood by the 48% of realists in our country)

    was totally dropped by our leadership for the next four years!

    Hence as the full awfulness came clear for all the people to see, we were totally invisible.
    – Our post-brexit new members were allowed to fade away, for lack of any strategy by the party to make them welcome and stay.
    – The money was spent, and
    – our leader actually moved us away from that position.

    No wonder we are no longer noticed!

    My view is that we will be lucky to get 20 seats in the next parliament.

  • Rif Winfield 12th Apr '24 - 12:37pm

    I think it is significant that over the past twelve months there has been very little change in the levels of support for Labour, the LibDems and the Greens. The only major change in statistical terms has been the growth in support for Reform UK at the expense of the Conservatives – virtually a straight swop in support, without affect on the level of standing of other parties. While I agree that at the present level Reform UK is unlikely to win any seats whatsoever, I would estimate (based on experimentation using the Electoral Calculus “user-defined prediction” facility, that it they were to rise to about 19% or so (again, at the expense of the Conservatives) they would be in a position to win a foothold in the Commons – between 2 and 5 seats. The figures, incidentally, suggest that the most likely seats are Boston-and-Skegness, Castle Point, Clacton and Torbay – although of course local circumstances would likely vary this. Even this would be dangerous, as they could well emerge as the fifth largest group in the Commons, and a starting point for further growth.

  • Rif Winfield 12th Apr '24 - 12:38pm

    There have been suggestions that the historical pattern of drift back to the incumbent governing party is less likely to happen on this forthcoming occasion. Again, the current figures suggest that the Conservatives will emerge with even fewer seats than are currently predicted probably considerably fewer than a hundred; in fact, on the current figures the LibDems may well become the second largest party in the Commons by default (are we ready for this?), with Ed becoming the official Leader of the Opposition. What I find interesting is that the total size of the LibDem Parliamentary Party would not be significantly affected by any further drift (beyond what has already occurred) from the Conservatives to Reform UK, with a LibDem Commons seats figure in the mid 50s even if Reform UK surpasses the residual Conservative vote; Labour would be the main beneficiaries of any further drop in Conservative support. I think that this is based largely on the fact that beyond the current range of LibDem target seats (up to perhaps 70) there is no significant group of possible gains which would be reached by a modest growth in support, since there are few other second-placed seats where the LibDems are in reaching distance of closing the gap. This indicated the need to start building up a range of secondary targets – seats which are unwinnable in this year’s election, but where continued work could be in place in time for 2029.

  • Matt (Bristol) 12th Apr '24 - 3:09pm

    Any substantive Tory collapse in southern England will see a risk of people who didn’t expect to win (whatever party they come from) thrust into the light, and a succession of Jared-O’Mara-type characters appear. This could affect the Lib Dems as much as Labour, the Greens or Reform (I rate the chances of Reform winning big pretty low).

  • Peter Davies 12th Apr '24 - 3:42pm

    We have a fairly rigorous approval system even for seats where we expect to lose our deposit. Not getting people in place fast enough is more likely to be a problem. We may get some who need carrying but I wouldn’t expect any seriously worrying candidates in our top hundred.

  • True Matt. As thrilling as it might be to imagine total Tory collapse, the Labour government benches would be filled with people who were not expected to, nor prepared to win. In the unlikely event that we somehow found ourselves as the official opposition we’d be forced to fill most shadow cabinet roles with people brand new to parliament.

    I don’t want to diminish the abilities of our candidates, nor the opportunities that come from a fresh pair of hands, but I genuinely don’t think we’re ready for it.

    Regaining our position as the third party at Westminster would be a big and very welcome achievement. Lots of people would gain an MP that will actually work for them, and our higher profile in the House of Commons and in the media will allow us to influence policy positively.

  • Denis Loretto 12th Apr '24 - 8:16pm

    May 2 is very important. It is crucial that maximum effort continues to be put into the local government campaign. In Westminster terms it is probably too late for new policy measures to achieve increased media coverage for the Lib Dems but really spectacular local government gains on May 2 would really help in this quest.

  • @ Alex Macfie as well as the points raised by Martin another problem is that boundary changes can drive a coach and horses through tactical voting. For example in Hitchin and Harpenden we only overtook Labour in 2019 but now the seat is being split in 2, bringing in a lot of voters not used to TV.

  • Matt (Bristol) 12th Apr '24 - 9:58pm

    Peter and Fiona – I think the chaotic possibilities of the coming election could include parties not being able to predict which seats fall to them, and non-expected candidates winning (as with O’Mara), but this is more likely to be Labour’s problem than a Lib Dem one. The other possible ‘problem’ is having more candidates like Sarah Wollaston was for Cameron — ie a perfectly reasonable candidate but independent minded and not inherently loyal to the party or its ideolog(ies). Personally as someone who’s much more of a Lib Dem-sceptic these days, that might be no bad thing for you lot, but again could cause Starmer some trouble.

    I was reading the Electoral calculus summary of how they think voter migration between parties is happening and they do think there is a leak from Lib Dem to Labour.

    The assumption in this article that the Lib Dems will naturally pick up voters from the Tories in the south should be treated with suspicion since Starmer has moved his party arguably closer to the ‘centrist’ position on social issues than the Lib Dems are. (I accept where you have strong local organisation and a local campaign to fight, you have opportunities, but that isn’t a national ‘brand identity’).

  • Martin Gray 13th Apr '24 - 5:23am

    Tactical voting is an urban myth – bit like the youth quake stuff , it just doesn’t materialize. What is difficult to factor is the strength of that labour vote in areas where they are obviously not expected to win. They can end up doing nothing in a seat & add considerable votes at our expense. Local elections have been a poor guide come the GE, we’ve had good results followed by a poor showing on GE night . Woeful turnouts & local factors make it difficult to predict. As for Palastine, Ukraine & PR, Brexit – none will be on the minds of the vast majority of voters come election night …NHS , economy, Immigration, crime , etc will be the main issues..

  • Alex Macfie 14th Apr '24 - 9:42am

    Tactical voting does happen; why else would the Labour vote in Richmond Park be 5.2%? Obviously it takes a lot of hard work locally to keep the Labour vote that low in the face of the air-war Tory vs Labour campaign, but it works. Probably many voters don’t consciously think of themselves as ‘tactical’ voters; rather they just know that elections here are a de facto choice between Tories and Lib Dems. It unwound quite spectacularly in 2015 (with Labour jumping to 19%), probably because people didn’t see much difference between us and the Tories after the Coalition, but then rewound at the 2016 by-election and Labour has never been above 10% since.

    The Labour vote did rise in our target seats in 1997 because of the air war, and we could this happening to some extent at the next GE. Probably not so much though, because Keir Starmer doesn’t have the charisma of Tony Blair.

  • Alex Macfie 14th Apr '24 - 9:58am

    Correction: Labour jumped to 12% in RP in 2015 (19% was our vote share).
    Labour’s positioning on “social” issues seems to be mainly aimed at the party’s former supporters in the Red Wall. The present Labour leadership seems to be hypercorrecting anything that looks, sounds and smells like Corbynism. This includes Labour now trying to be pro-Brexit, which is ironic when one remembers that Corbyn and his inner circle were mostly socialism-in-one-country Lexiters.
    Blue Wall voters are less exercised on cultural wedge issues, and tend to have been Remain supporters. They are also mainly concerned with getting the Tories out. Voter drift from us to Labour may be because many of the seats in question are actually Con~Lab battlegrounds (or at least not our targets) or because voters think they have to vote Labour under the influence of national messaging.

  • Tactical voting definitely exists, but I agree with Alex that a lot of the time people won’t think of it as tactical voting as such. Just the best choice from the options available. Labour in particular have benefited from such sub-conscious tactical voting in Labour- Conservative constituencies for decades.

    Nevertheless, I do agree that attempts at strategic tactical voting talked about by some groups like Compass or Best for Britain with vote swapping are unrealistic, often proposed by people who have never been involved with a local campaign who under-estimate the pettiness of some activists.

    Last time larger scale attempts at tactical voting were damaged by bickering over who the challenger should be in a handful of seats. I hope that at least some people have learned their lesson, and less hostility from Corbyn supporters will help both parties.

  • Martin Gray 14th Apr '24 - 1:38pm

    Alex. What I’m saying is that it doesn’t materialize on the scale we’d like to think of hope it does. We heard so much about it in 17/19 GE. Like the youth quake stuff it just didn’t happen. By-elections & council elections are poor guides – having said that mid beds was an example over enthusiasm. Tim stating that labour would save it’s deposit was a painful reminder of how predictions can be wildly off the mark. Labour could end up adding significant votes in seats where they’ve no real chance of winning . You’re right about the airwars, and NShropshire would be very vulnerable at the GE given labours vote previously.

  • Alex – If in the boundary changes Richmond Park had become – for arguments sake – Richmond North, Barnes and Putney West could we still rely on tactical voting? I would suggest that it would be difficult to persuade Putney voters that Labour “can’t win here”. They would need to want to vote LD for other reasons. This will be a problem all around the country at the GE.

  • Chris Moore 14th Apr '24 - 9:46pm

    Lab/LD tactical voting that benefitted LDs did happen in some seats in97 and 2010.

    Likewise, I believe there was anti-Labour tactical voting in 2005 in the majority of seats we won from Labour.

  • Alex Macfie 15th Apr '24 - 8:24am

    Actually I think North Shropshire is likely to be a Con~LD battleground seat at the GE. There is some history of Lib Dem strength there, and the by-election clearly established us as the main challenger to the Tories. The political playing field established after a by-election in which the seat changes hands tends to be maintained at the following GE, whether or not the by-election gain is held (e.g. in Eastbourne and Ribble valley the Labour vote fell even further in 1992 having already been squeezed at the respective by-elections). So in the area that was Mid-Beds (boundary changes mean the seat is effectively abolished) I expect the Lib Dem vote to collapse and much will depend on what happens to it. I don’t think either MRP analysis factors in the by-elections; both are taking the 2019 vote as the basis.

    I agree that organised tactical voting is unlikely to work, especially as the messages from different polls are so contradictory. Also it looks like trying to instruct voters, which as I’m always saying doesn’t go down well.

  • North Shropshire will be a LIb Dem win, the MP has a high profile, canvassing returns are okay and the Midlands Region are targeting it quite effectively.

  • Labour won’t be a threat in N Shropshire, except for a handful of die-hards who would rather have a Tory than let a third party in on the action. That doesn’t mean the seat is guaranteed, as a lot of the Tories who stayed at home last time will vote, and we should assume some who lent Helen their vote to protest BoJo and/or the underwhelming Conservative candidate, will vote for the Conservative candidate in a general election.

    However, given how impressive she’s been, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some dyed in the wool Conservatives who voted against her the by-election will have realised that she’s much better than anything they’ve had before, and will vote accordingly. I hope she keeps her seat, but an MPR model is the last place I’d look for an accurate prediction.

    And yes, local elections, like by-elections are not direct predictors of general election voting patterns, but the rise in support for the LibDems in local by-elections across Shropshire since Helen became an MP is a good indication that people like what they see and want more of it.

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Recent Comments

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