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General Election – the result may not be what everyone is expecting!

The results are in. The universal, wall-to-wall, endlessly repeated commentariat view is clear: Labour did brilliantly in the local elections, the Tories are doomed, bring on Starmer’s General Election landslide. The rather lazy and superficial analysis is that with Labour consistently around 20 points ahead of the Tories in the polls, the General Election result is certain.

 

Except this quite possibly isn’t true. The REC team question this continually repeated messaging which really isn’t borne out by the statistical evidence. We should perhaps first pause to evaluate the track record of the media’s electoral predictions.

 

In 2010, the commentariat told us that the Coalition would never go full term. They were wrong.


In 2015, they told us that Cameron’s Tories could not win a majority at the General Election. They were wrong.


Repeatedly for years in the run up to the 2016 Brexit referendum, the commentariat and pollsters told us that Leave could never win. They were wrong. Then for three years, with Keir Starmer leading the charge, the commentariat confidently predicted there was likely to be a second referendum. They were wrong.


In 2016 they told us it was a laughable proposition that Trump could win the Presidential election. They were wrong.


In 2017 the commentariat and pollsters alike told us that as Theresa May was 20 points ahead in the polls, (note that number, Keir!) she was on course to win the General Election. They were wrong.


Throughout 2018, after he dropped out of the previous Tory leadership race before it even started, they told us that BoJo was politically washed up and would never achieve his dream of being Prime Minister. They were wrong.


In 2019 the commentariat told us that Jeremy Corbyn was a serious and credible electoral threat. He went onto lead Labour to its worst defeat since 1935. Once again they were wrong. 


In 2020, after he had lost the Presidential election to Joe Biden, they told us Trump was a spent force, would spend the rest of his life in court and would thus never be able to contest a Presidential election ever again. How’s that prediction looking now? They were of course wrong yet again. 


With such an utterly appalling track record for major political predictions, the REC team would politely suggest that we should put zero weight in the opinions of the commentariat, but rather should look at the actual data.

 

As polling obsessive Lord Ashcroft always says, polls are “snapshots of opinion today, not predictions of tomorrow’s future”. Ask Theresa May her views on that one. Rather than looking at the rather inexact ‘guestimations’ of the polling industry – more like guessing with numbers than actual mathematics – we have the real time data of two actual recent election results to consider: the local elections of 2023 and now 2024.

 

So what do they tell us? Consistently, in both results, they show that Labour is 7-9 points ahead of the Tories depending on whether you believe election gurus Professors Rallings and Thrasher or celebrated pollster Sir John Curtice.. Why is this significant? Because the acclaimed and unimpeachable professors have calculated Starmer needs to be 12.5% ahead in the polls for Labour to achieve a one seat majority. Problem.

 

Both local election results point clearly to the fact that we are deep in hung Parliament territory. Whilst the Tories are of course incredibly unpopular, effectively at the end of a third term, Starmer has just not pulled Labour far enough ahead to make it certain for him to win, let alone get anywhere close to a landslide. It should be noted that in 1996, at this point in the electoral cycle ahead of his 1997 election landslide, Blair was on average 31 points ahead of the Tories. The truth is Starmer just isn’t cutting it. 

 

When this point has been made hitherto, and this has been particularly noticeable in the post local election analysis, the Left and mainstream commentariat establishment have largely looked the other way as it is rather inconvenient to their narrative. What we will see over the next few months, as we get closer to election day, is the commentariat slowly catching up with statistical reality. And once both political parties lay out their manifestos, the sitting government inevitably bribing us with tax cuts from our own money and the Rwanda story playing out whichever way, history tells us that the polls always narrow in the run up to polling day. It may well be being 7-9% ahead today will be dreamy territory for Starmer then.

 

Unless…

 

Could the Tories implode further? Is that possible? They are already at rock bottom, in core vote territory. And we know from all the statistical analysis that the 20 point poll lead Labour has is not because Tory voters have switched to Labour in any numbers but because Tory voters are in effect on strike, cheesed off by all the endless bad news that surrounds the Tory government. But history has shown us time and again that in General Elections the tribal vote tends to return en masse to its natural political home. We cannot discount the Tories trying yet more KamiKwarsi suicide missions to destroy their chances further; goodness knows, they have been putting a lot of effort in on that score in recent times. But the likelihood is that the Tory vote will go up, not down, once we get to the actual General Election. 

 

The Tories are going to lose, that much is obvious; their so called ‘narrow path to victory’ well and truly disappeared many months ago. But the real question is, can Labour actually win? They will be the largest party for sure, but that’s not the same as winning. Will they get over the 326 House of Commons seat target needed to have a Parliamentary majority? And if not, will the Lib Dems do well enough to help them in some sort of ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement?

 

The indications as at today are that these questions have no certain answers. And if we are anywhere close to the situations described above, then it is almost inevitable there would be a second General Election within a year or two of this next one.

 

Thus the REC team implores our clients and professional colleagues to be a little more than sceptical about the commentariat’s General Election predictions. History suggests they may be very wide of the mark.

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