PHILIP COWLEY analyses the upcoming 2019 General Election

12 reasons why this is the hardest ever poll to predict: PHILIP COWLEY analyses the upcoming 2019 General Election

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.



How it could happen…

The Tories pick up seats from Labour across the North and in Wales – and do not lose too many in Remain areas and in Scotland.

What it means for Brexit

Mr Johnson would reconvene Parliament as soon as possible and get the Withdrawal Agreement through within a week, allowing Britain to leave the European Union by December 31.


How it could happen…

The Conservatives make little advance from the disastrous result of the 2017 election under Theresa May. 

Gains in pro-Leave areas are cancelled out by losses in Remain regions, mainly to the Lib Dems.

What it means for Brexit

Continued deadlock. Mr Johnson could try to get his Withdrawal Agreement Bill through again, but this may only be possible by going for a softer Brexit, such as customs union membership. Another extension likely.


How it could happen…

Labour defies the polls – just as it did in 2017 – and sees off the threat of the Lib Dems to make even further gains, but not enough to rule on its own.

What it means for Brexit

Mr Corbyn would probably need to secure the backing of the SNP and give in to their demand for another independence vote. That could mean two referendums in 2020 – one on Scottish independence, and the other on Brexit.


How it could happen…

In a stunning result, Jeremy Corbyn picks up dozens of seats from northern voters wanting an end to austerity and southern voters who want a second say on Brexit.

What it means for Brexit

Brexit would be paused. Jeremy Corbyn has said he would go to Brussels to secure a better Brexit, and request a third extension to enable a confirmatory referendum on the deal.