Thursday, 1 June 2017

What will these Labour surges actually mean?

In recent opinion polls, Labour has been substantially closing the gap on the Conservatives, culminating in the latest opinion polls showing Conservative leads over Labour being reduced to just 3% (although this was from a poll with a sample size of only 1,875) in some cases, and the average considerably less than 10%. The Conservative slide has been occurring in spite of UKIP continuing to flatline at an average of just 4%.

Why is this happening with 1 week to go before polling day? What is causing it?

As I mentioned earlier, opposition parties generally close the gap on the governing party (or the other way around, if the governing party is sure to lose, which this year is certainly not the case); however, this is being enhanced with Theresa May's refusal to attend election debates of any sort and the Conservatives running poor and lacklustre ground campaigns in many key constituencies (e.g. Ealing Central & Acton). It also transpires that former UKIP voters are not as willing to hand their votes to the Conservatives as previously indicated, since the Conservatives are slipping somewhat amongst working-class voters (those in economic classes C2, D and E; middle to upper class voters are in economic classes A, B, and C1), who generated a stronger Leave vote in the EU membership referendum last year.

Younger voters, who are much less likely to vote Conservative than older voters, are also displaying a greater interest in this election than the 2015 election and more of them are registered to vote in spite of Individual Electoral Registration initially having caught out students and private renters in particular. The greater turnout amongst young voters, where turnout has been in steady decline over the past 20 years, will be a crucial factor in many seats, especially metropolitan and prosperous suburban seats.

Labour is also squeezing out Liberal Democrat and Green voters more, particularly in university cities and more traditionally radical areas (which had particularly high Remain votes) like Hackney North & Stoke Newington and Lewisham Deptford; this is particularly bad news for the Green Party since many of its stronger performances in 2015 were in safe Labour seats where Green support has been stronger than average due to demographic factors. Under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour's non-environmental policies have been edging noticeably closer towards the Greens in many ways. In London, this also includes Hackney South & Shoreditch, Holborn & St Pancras, both Islington seats, Tottenham, Bethnal Green & Bow, and most of the south-central portion of inner London (i.e. the former County of London area). Outside London, this can be extended to include such seats as Nottingham East, Oxford East, Liverpool Riverside, Manchester Gorton, and Norwich South (in all of these five seats, locally and nationally, only the Labour and Green Parties are in contention in practice; furthermore in these five, the considerable Green vote is likely to be heavily squeezed). Labour's surges will be considerably heavier in Remain areas than Leave areas, so despite this surge Labour could still lose considerable numbers of seats to the Conservatives, and not gain enough to counter their losses.

Will it have as much an effect as predicted?

Not significantly, especially since the swing of voters from UKIP to Conservative can counteract any buoyancy these improvements provide, especially in seats without a UKIP candidate at all. It is well worth remembering that false flag polls usually crop up in elections at least once, and therefore those of you particularly interested in tracking polls need to keep doing so until election day. The Liberal Democrat vote can only be squeezed so far, and in so many seats where they were never competitive it has already bottomed out. The same is true for the Green vote in uncompetitive constituencies. In some marginal constituencies where the Remain-Leave vote was just as tight as the 2015 election result, such as Bedford, it will be enough to deliver a Labour gain, however, if those polls ring true.

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