30 October 2019 08:41
When the doyen of election experts, Sir David Butler, was asked recently about his 70 years' experience of polls, he threw his arms up and said he was glad he was no longer analysing them today. Changing voter behaviour and social media, he said, had made elections much less predictable. This one will be one of the most unpredictable this country has seen. Here are 12 reasons why... Philip Cowley gives 12 reasons why the upcoming election will be one of the most unpredictable this country has seen (Pictured: Boris Johnson outside Number 10 on Tuesday) 1) Volatile voters Tribal loyalties that flourished after World War II, with people supporting the same party election after election, have largely disappeared.
The last two elections saw huge numbers switch allegiance. The Tories may be starting comfortably in front, but there's no guarantee they will stay in pole position. 2) Brexit fault-lines DIVISIONS between Leave and Remain voters have replaced traditional Tory/Labour ones. They have turned Remain-majority seats that were previously Tory strongholds into Lib Dem or Labour targets. Equally, previously safe Labour seats which heavily voted Leave could be won by the Tories and Brexit Party. 3) A Lib Dem revival? AT one point during the 2017 campaign the Lib Dems' private polling suggested they would get just one MP. How things have changed. Now the 'Remain Party' intent on a second referendum, they have big hopes for more than 60 constituencies. 4) Fear of Farage Since topping the poll in this year's European Elections, Nigel Farage's anti-Brussels brigade have lost ground to the Tories. Yet Farage is a great campaigner and even a slightly resurgent Brexit Party could cause problems for the Tories. This is why many Conservatives want a pact in which the parties agree not to campaign – and steal potential voters – in seats where one is the frontrunner. 5) Scottish storms At the last election, Scotland saved the Tories from being kicked out of No10. Under then leader Ruth Davidson, the party went into the election with just one MP but ended up with 13. The popular Davidson has since stood down and the Nationalists are on the attack again. Those 13 Scottish Tory MPs are very vulnerable. 6) Corbynista Capital London traditionally always voted the same way as the rest of the UK. But in recent elections, it has increasingly become a Labour stronghold. 7) Tactical voting Pollsters predict this could be more widespread than in previous years due to voters' greater understanding of the power they have in a small number of seats. For example, a Lib Dem voter in a marginal finely balanced between Labour and the Tories may vote Labour to stop the pro-Brexit Conservatives winning. 8) Broken promises Elections are rarely fought against a backdrop of a government failing to deliver a central policy pledge. Boris Johnson hopes he can present his inability to deliver Brexit on October 31 not as his own failure but as the result of being blocked by a Remain-supporting Parliament. Will voters buy this argument? 9) A Corbyn comeback? In 2017, the Labour leader was considered by the Tories as one of their biggest electoral assets. And yet the public's view of him was transformed during the campaign itself. Can a man recently seen by just 16 per cent of people as their preferred PM pull off the same trick again? 10) Youthquakes The biggest divisions in politics are now by age. At the last election, Labour had a 41 percentage point lead among under-30s. Among those over 70, the Tories led by 50 points. 11) Too chilly to vote We don't often have winter elections – for good reasons. The dark, damp and cold weather. If predicted bitter temperatures happen, turn-out could be lowered – especially among the elderly, 69 per cent of whom voted Conservative in 2017. 12) Shifting battleground Normally, a core group of constituencies are key. Yet all the above factors mean hundreds of seats could potentially change hands. Philip Cowley is Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London and one of the editors of Sex, Lies And Politics: The Secret Influences That Drive Our Political Choices.