Election Night With Going Postal

Always Worth Saying, Going Postal
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The Exit Poll

At 10 pm on election night, the London media will turn its attention to the exit poll. Prefaced by a cheesy build-up, Puffins might be advised to delay tuning in to the rolling TV election night coverage until about five past ten.

The exit poll, a speciality of Sir John Curtice and the BBC, only samples about 150 polling stations. These are from marginal constituencies with a national trend being extrapolated from them. Rather than sampling people’s intention to vote, as per every opinion poll in the run-up to election day, this poll reports how people voted. Instead of predicting the future, they are sampling the present and then comparing it to previous election sampling from the same polling station.

This poll has a reputation for accuracy. In 2015, Cameron expected to lose and had written and rehearsed the speech he would give when standing down as prime minister. When the exit poll was published, LibDem grandee Paddy Ashdown said he would eat his hat if it were correct.

With safe seats in the bag, exit pollsters extrapolate their conclusions from the marginals. However, this time around, an unpopular government makes it difficult to define what is and isn’t a marginal. Turnout is expected to be low. Voting will be tactical.

As Big Ben chimes ten, expect the headlines to be ‘Stamer is prime minister’ or ‘Labour win’ rather than anything more detailed.

Other caveats also apply. The exit poll was wrong in 1992 when predicting a hung parliament rather than a Conservative majority of 21. In 2019, they predicted the Conservatives to be the largest party with 316 seats, whereas Boris Johnson won 365, a majority of 80. Worth it at the time, not only for the opportunity to get Brexit done, but for studios full of Remainer London luvvies eating dirt like Paddy Ashdown eats hat.

Cameron’s unexpected 2015 majority of ten was a mixed blessing. Unable to negotiate away his Brexit referendum manifesto pledge through a coalition agreement, he went to the polls the following year in an EU membership vote. There was no Brexit exit poll. Wary of a close result after a bad-tempered campaign, the Powers That Be were afraid of a mountain of ammunition a poll contradicting the actual vote would allow the losing side.

A veteran predicts. Or does he?

Veteran YouGov pollster Peter Kelner navigates a safe, if unlikely, course. Despite a lack of evidence, he predicts a narrower Labour lead over the Tories than expected with Reform and the LibDems tying in third place. Peter’s calculations give Labour a 155-seat majority. Despite drawing, the LibDems win 50 seats and Reform only two.

Such a majority would not be unprecedented. In 1997 and 2001, Blair’s post-war record majorities were 179 and 167. However, with the Tories and LibDems polling lower than in ’97 and ’01, a Starmer giga-majority remains a possibility.

To his credit, in an accompanying Times article, Kelner lists why he might be wrong and, in having to do so, reveals the sensitivities of his London media-political-legal bubble.

You would think the Metropolitan elite would be thrilled at the prospect of one of their own installed with a super-majority. No doubt they are. But a dark lining comes attached to the silver cloud. With the Tories collapsing, Starmer’s mega-majority may be based upon a vote share south of 40% – less than Jeremy Corbyn in 2017. The bubble’s obsession with mass uncontrolled unlimited immigration, Net Zero and minority-focused law-fare will be unpopular with the plebs they detest. Opposition will muster around Farage and Reform.

Psephologists as clever as Kelner temper their present-day predictions in dread of a Macron/Le Penn-style catastrophe for themselves in 2029. Islington’s fingers are crossed for a 40%+ Labour vote, a Starmer majority well south of 200 and Reform (somehow) finishing a poor fourth.

As for me

As for me, my detailed election and by-election predictions are always wrong, so beyond saying the Tories will lose, I’m not going to bother. The exception was December 2019 when, if I may quote myself, I said the following in a pre-election QT Review.

“Roll on Thursday, and more to the point Friday when, with the easy over-confidence of the new chap in the office, I predict Question Time will be all about Boris’s big win and the Labour Party’s unfolding self-inflicted blood bath.”

I take no credit. The best source of information comes from canvassers. They go from house to house and talk to large numbers of real people. They can make a comparison with previous elections and are happy to have their brains picked on my doorstep. In 2019, the Tory canvassers were cock a hoop, this time, they haven’t called. My local Conservative MP was spotted on my sister-in-law’s doorbell cam. He appeared to be sticking leaflets through doors on his own from the back of an armoured Land Rover. Draw your own conclusions.

The poll which counts

People who know about such things have published a list of constituencies expected to declare early. We shall have a look at their previous results to give us an idea of what’s going on without having to sit up all night. Remember, this is the real thing, each constituency contains more voters than the biggest of opinion polls. Much can be extrapolated from a small number of results.

Declaration Expected 11:30pm, Blyth & Ashington

This is a new constituency made up of the former Wensbeck constituency, but excluding Morpeth (which is Conservative) and now including Blyth. In 2019, Wensbeck had a Labour majority of 800. The constituency containing Blyth had a Conservative majority of 700. Excluded Morpeth has a Conservative town council.

In Wensbeck, the Brexit Party took 8% of the 2019 vote, with Labour only 2% ahead of the Tories. In Blyth Valley, the position was reversed, with the Conservatives 2% ahead of Labour and the Brexit Party again on 8%.

The polling companies’ ward-by-ward analysis suggests the boundary changes give an advantage to Labour. Election Calculus’s 2019 election result calculation based on the new boundaries is:

Labour 47%

Conservative 35%

Reform (i.e. Brexit Party as was) 9%

LibDem 5%

Greens 2%

Therefore, look for a Labour vote share of over 47%. The higher above that, the better Labour can be expected to do nationwide. As for the Conservatives and Reform, 35% and 9% are the 2019 altered boundaries vote shares. The extent to which those two figures narrow, or even cross, gives an idea of how good a night Farage will have.

11.45 Houghton & Sunderland South

Phoney Bridget Phillipson’s constituency was the first to declare in 2010 and 2015. In 2019 Bridget had a majority of 3,000 for the Labour Party, with the Brexit Party getting 6,000 votes. Look out for how much higher than last time’s 40% the Labour vote is and how much higher than 15% the Reform vote is. Note the turnout – 57% last time, it will be lower this time. The lower the turnout the better – a straw poll of the girls at work suggests it’s the Labour Party who waste a massive effort on people who don’t vote.

00:15 Basildon & Billericay

In 2019, a Conservative majority of 20,000 – 67% of the vote. Turnout 63%. No Brexit Party candidate. Labour second on 20%. Liberal Democrats, 8%.

Look for the Liberal Democrat support moving as tactical votes to Labour. With no Brexit candidate last time, see how close to the ‘poll of polls average’ of 15% Farage’s party achieves.

After only three declarations, one obsensibly marginal but Labour because of boundary changes, one Labour and one Tory, Puffins can go to bed.

The Labour majority in Ashington & Blyth, the increase in the Labour share in Sunderland South & Houghton and the squeeze on the Tories in Basildon & Billericay should be an early and accurate prediction of the Labour majority.

The Reform vote share will give an indication of the size of any vigorous opposition (albeit outside parliament because of the first past the post system) that Starmer can expect between now and 2029.

Selective interesting contests

02:30 George Galloway, Rochdale, majority 5,600. Election Calculus polls him ahead of the Labour candidate but predicts he will lose all the same.

03:00 Islington North, Jeremy Corbyn standing as an independent. As with George Galloway, Election Calculus polls Corbyn ahead of the Labour candidate but predict he will lose.

Ian Duncan-Smith, Chingford and Woodford Green, majority 1,200.

The largest number of constituencies are expected to report between 3 am and 4 am.

03:15 Puffins’ favourite Thanhgam Debboinare (not her real name), boundary changes, Bristol Central, in peril from the Greens.

03:30 Grant Schapps. Tory in peril despite an 11,000 majority. Jeremy Richard Streynsham Hunt, boundary changes, Goldaming and Ash. Portsmouth North, Captain Penny Mourdant (not her real rank), 2019 majority 15,000.

04:00 It’s party leader o’clock with Nigel Farage, Count Bin Face and Rishi Sunak. Nigel Farage in Clacton. Rishi Sunak and Count Bin Face in Richmond & Northallerton (boundary changes).

04:30 Ashfield, can Lee Anderson hold Reform’s one existing seat?

05:30 Dewsbury & Batley, look out for Galloway’s Iqbal Mohammed. Angela Rayner, enriched Ashton-under-Lyne, majority 4,200, Workers Party candidate Aroma Hassan.

06:30 Ilford North. Nasty Wes Streeting. A majority of 5,000 in 2019 but a multicultural constituency with an Islamist, Leanne Mohammed, standing. Wishfully, Election Calculus predict she’ll get zero votes.

© Always Worth Saying 2024