top of page

So where have we ended up? Where has our new pollster heroine, ‘Whitby woman’, landed at the end of this General Election campaign? Looking back, what ‘cut throughs’  have actually hit home and lasted to the end of the race?


And here’s a controversial answer: none of them. No really, none of them.


It seems to the REC team that minds were hard set before the election started. The polls have been static for 18 months. No one's really changed their mind. The nation’s views, mindset and opinions were baked in long before this election began. Do we really remember anything that happened to Labour during this election? Not really. Do we care? Not much. But we are aware of the endless Tory mishaps: drenched in Downing Street, offending D-Day veterans, Farage returning, ‘Fluttergate’ etc because they reinforced our previously held views. And to meet our low expectations, the Tories, starting 20+ points behind and not unreasonably expecting to narrow that substantially through the campaign, waged such a historically bad campaign that they managed to defy all recent electoral precedents.


The national mood seems to be:


1. We are fed up with the Tories after 14 years. We’d like them to go please. We could all list a whole raft of oft-repeated reasons off the top of our heads, but really can’t be bothered at this point.


2. We have no idea what Labour’s policies are, and seemingly neither do they. The other guys have had their go, so now it's their turn. Chop chop.


And that's about the size of it really. So, for all the noise, all the words, all the analysis, all the polls, we thank you.


Two things will likely happen next: the turnout will probably be lower than usual because we all know the result and thus a good number of voters won’t be bothered to turn up. And the winner will probably get a poll bounce after the election as is usual which will be followed by much hype, over excited giddiness and hubris all around. Remember ‘we’ve banished boom and bust’?


Anyway, let's get cracking, there's lots to do.

What fun we’ve had. Watching the polls like hawks. Seeing them go up, seeing them go down. Watching the media obsess about one poll here or one poll there. There are now only really two polls that count: John Curtice’s exit poll at 10 o’clock on election night followed by the actual result around eight hours later. And against those two results, all the polling of the last six weeks will be measured.


So first off, some stats for our readers. There have been 127 polls as we go to pixel during this election, 14 of them being the much fabled MRP polls. There were only two days when no polls were published, 15 and 22 June. Every other day, some pollsters somewhere hit us with some new stats.


So, what have we actually learned from six weeks of extreme polling?


1. None of the TV debates had any meaningful impact on the polls whatsoever. There are those occasions when the debate and its media write up has an impact; just look across the Atlantic at the disastrous and enormous impact of just one debate. But in this General Election, there was none. Which raises the question: are the debates worthwhile? They suck an enormous amount of time for the party leaders out of the campaign, who then trot through the same old, tired, predictable and endlessly rehearsed lines. They do give all the journalists lots of similar copy, but they have not helped the voting public in the least. They also tend to be watched mostly by the very politically engaged who usually have already made up their minds and just want to shout at their television either for or against their favourite or hate figure. So why bother? Previous party leaders have indeed opted out. Trump opted out of the entire primary season in the States. Are these dull shouting matches that very few people watch more for the TV channels and journalists than for anyone else?


2. The polls have had an enormous spread ranging from a lead for Labour as high as 27 points, down to as low as 11. As we have written numerous times before, it is the average, the so called ‘poll of polls’, not any individual poll that should be looked at. Whenever a media outlet trumpets one particular poll, utterly ignore them.


3. Farage arriving into the campaign did make a difference. He pushed Reform from the low teens to the high teens, sucking votes away from the Tories. But he peaked and then softened again. We shall see on election day what real impact his intervention had.


4.   What about the hype around MRP polls? Truthfully, MRP polls delivered nothing wildly different to the rest of the polls as they tried to predict the election result constituency by constituency. We’ll see how well they did on election day. But it seems to the REC team these very large and very expensive polls are more a way of pollsters getting more extra and making a lot more money than anything really significant.


5. One of the big issues debated has been the difference between how the pollsters accounted for those who said ‘don't know’. There's been much commentary around the so-called ‘excluders’, pollsters which excluded the ‘don't knows’ and which tended to give a higher lead for Labour, or the so called ‘guesstimators’, those which through various means effectively guessed how the ‘don't knows’ might vote and which generally gave Labour a lower lead. We shall see on polling day if there's any real difference but as the polls unravelled over the six week period, from whichever camp all the pollsters moved towards the average, broadly speaking.


6. Did the pollsters ‘herd’? That is, did they play with their algorithms to get them to the average. It's very bad for pollster business if you're an outlier that gets it badly wrong on polling day, so they tend to fiddle with their models to get closer to the average. Certainly, the excluders started with a very high 20s leads for Labour but ended up on a 22 point lead. Whereas the ‘guesstimators’ started in the low teens and moved up to a consistent 18. This gave an average overall lead for Labour of 20 points, about where they started the campaign, indeed about where they have been for the last 18 months. Was this herding or was this simply voters, one by one, actually making their minds up hence getting the polls more accurate. We shall see.


So, what happens next in polling land?

Well, if the polls are significantly wrong, and there are those that think this might be the case, then there will be the inevitable inquiry. It is interesting that the recent past chairman of YouGov came out in The Sunday Times this weekend to say this was his view. The last two May local elections in 2023 and earlier this year produced real results for Labour of only around a 7-9 point lead, all while the polls showed the national lead to be around 20 points. So if for example, the rock solid 20 point Labour lead for the last 18 months turns out to be something like only a 15 point lead, then questions will be asked for sure. And in that scenario, bigger questions would lurk: did the persistent solid lead for Labour affect voters’ behaviour? Did the pollsters merely report public opinion or did they in fact help make public opinion?


If on the other hand, the pollsters have all herded to the safe average and the polls are near enough bang on, then standby for mailshots from every pollster in Christendom offering their services.

The international news this last week has been dominated by the collapsing confidence in Joe Biden as the Democrat candidate for the US Presidential election. It seems to have come as a surprise to some people that Biden is long last his mental prime, to put it mildly. Have they all been asleep for the last four years? His senile collapse in the first head-to-head debate exposed the lie the Democrat party can no longer hide.


Putting aside the ghastliness of Trump and the incapability of Biden in the debate, the really interesting thing in the first head-to-head between them was the breadth of international issues that were covered in the debate which have been completely absent from the UK General Election campaign.


There are just a whole range of big issues that have been utterly absent from any debate, commentary or general discussion in the UK General Election, the election dogs that did not bark.


Where was the debate about climate change, a signature issue and a point of difference between the two main parties, indeed all the parties?


Where was the debate about Brexit, the most defining event in British political history in the last few decades. Brushed under the carpet by the two main parties, it has hardly been mentioned at all. Like Voldemort, the issue we dare not mention.


Where was the debate about the first land war in Europe since 1945 that is currently raging?


Where was the debate about Gaza and what stance we should take as a nation to Middle East peace?


Instead, we blathered on and on, day after day about whether our future PM supported his previous party leader too much or whether we should increase taxes on the parents of 7% of children or whether teenagers should do some form of community service. And God help us all if we ever again have to hear that Starmer is the son of an ever so humble toolmaker and Sunak’s parents worked in the NHS.


We have become so pathetically parochial as a nation. We used to rule the world not so long ago. How the mighty have fallen.

bottom of page