Back in January I released a seat by seat prediction for all 650 parliamentary constituencies at the general election. It attracted a lot of comment, largely because I was the first to do this. “How do you come to those conclusions?” people asked. “What methodology did you use?” The honest answer is that there was no scientific method. I did look at polls, I looked at what other informed commentators were saying, I looked at local government election results since 2010. But in the end, a lot of my predictions were based on good old fashioned political intuition and hunch. Some people may therefore conclude that my predictions are a complete waste of time, and they may turn out to be right if I turn out to be way off beam on May 8th.
I would merely point out that if my predictions are a waste of time, so are the plethora of polls that we are seeing on a daily basis. They are all over the place. I don’t know how much the newspapers pay for these polls but they are a complete and utter waste of their money. With the advent of five party politics it is impossible to take national opinion polls seriously. There will be no national swing. There may not even be a regional swing, so it is important to look at each constituency as an individual polling entity. Michael Ashcroft spotted this very early on in this Parliament and his constituency polls provide an invaluable snapshot of public opinion in that constituency at a particular time. They have certainly informed my seat by seat predictions but I have tried not to be dominated by what those polls project. Where there is less than a five per cent margin, anything is still possible.
Back in January I projected…
Conservative 278 (-29)
Labour 301 (12)
UKIP 5 (1)
Sinn Fein 5 (-)
SDLP 3 (-)
Independent 1 (-)
Speaker 1 (-)
Since then we have seen the emergence of the Greens as a stronger force in the polls and while they won’t gain any extra seats (and if they do, Bristol West and Norwich South would be the two most likely gains) they may well leech some votes from the LibDems or Labour, or be attractive to people seeking to register a protest and who couldn’t stomach voting UKIP.
Back in January, I was convinced that the polls which put the SNP on 45% or thereabouts would not turn out to be sustainable. This is what I wrote…
“In Scotland I just cannot see how the SNP can gain the number of seats many people are predicting. Some pundits predict with straight faces that the SNP will sweep the electoral board and end up with 30 to 40 seats. They have 6 at the moment, and try as I might I can’t get them above 18. If they do achieve more than that that it would be a political earthquake of epic proportions. They would be overturning Labour majorities of 15-20,000.”
Since then, many respected pundits have seriously predicted that the SNP could actually win more than 50 out of the 59 Scottish seats. I’ve had to accept that I have vastly underestimated the impact the SNP will have, not only on seats in Scotland, but in the likely final result.
In my revised predictions, quite a few LibDem seats have changed and this has resulted in a net gain of one seat. It would have been more but I project that they will lose all bar three of their Scottish seats.
With regard to UKIP I have upped my prediction to eight seats from five. This may turn out to be an overestimate but in each of the eight wins I predict (and I don’t include Rochester & Strood in the eight) there are solid reasons for doing so.
So here is my revised prediction
Plaid Cymru 4
Sinn Fein 5
So, a dead heat between the two main parties, making it more or less impossible for the Conservatives or Labour to form a coalition with anyone. I have always thought a minority government is the most likely outcome of the next election and I am becoming more convinced of this as every week passes. From a political spectator’s point of view this is very exciting and provides us with acres of talking points. For the country, though, and especially for the economy, it could be a living nightmare.
And for whoever becomes prime minister of a minority government, it’s not going to be like 1974. You can’t just call a quick snap election at a time when you thing it might be advantageous to do so. The Fixed Term Parliament Act makes this quite difficult. But that’s a subject for another time.
Last time I predicted only 94 out of 650 seats would change hands. I am now predicting that has increased to 117 (18%). 37 of them are in Scotland. That’s where the election night action is going to be.
To see my revised predictions here are the links to each region. I identify each seat where I have predicted a change from the one I made in January.
Scotland (SNP + 24, Labour -22 LibDem -2)
North West (LibDem +1, Conservatives -1)
Yorkshire & the North East (UKIP +1, Labour -1)
West Midlands (UKI +1, Labour -1)
Wales (Conservatives +1, Plaid Cymru +1, LibDems -2)
London (LibDems +2, Labour + 1, Conservatives -3)
East Midlands (No change)
South West (No change)
South East (LibDems +2, Conservatives -2)
East Anglia (Conservatives +1, UKIP +1, Conservatives -1. Labour -1)
I shall do a final revision of my predictions in late April.