With just over a week to go to the General Election, Andrew Hawkins, Chairman and founder of Savanta ComRes joined us at Headland to share his view on what the country is thinking, what could cause last minute shifts in the polls and the seats to stay up for on Thursday night.
The polls are showing a reasonable Conservative lead, but are the headline figures hiding starker regional swings?
Andrew was clear that come election night all eyes will be on the Midlands and the North of England to see if Boris Johnson can break the so-called “Red Wall,” a string of seats that largely follows the M62 corridor stretching from the Wirral in the West, to the Humber in the East. Along this stretch lie a number of seats that voted Leave and have an incumbent Labour MP with a majority of less than 7.5% – winning seats in this area is absolutely key to the Conservatives’ strategy; failure to do so may deprive the party of the majority they claim to need to “Get Brexit Done.”
Elsewhere in the country different battles are taking place. In the South, the Lib Dems are up on where they were at this point in 2017 and the Conservatives are slightly down on their 2017 result. Andrew believes this may be enough to win back tight marginal Tory-Lib Dem seats such as St. Ives. However, don’t expect the Lib Dems to pick up too many seats from the Conservatives in the South of England, it seems like the Brexit Party’s decision not to stand candidates in Conservative seats may prevent this from happening.
In Scotland, Andrew said things could be looking a little better for the Conservatives than was thought at the start of the campaign. The party has managed to shore up support with a promise of no more referendums, so don’t make bets on the extinction of the Scottish Tory just yet. That said, it is difficult to see the party holding on to seats like Stirling with a majority of just 148 north of the border.
London may yet provide the most interesting results of this election. Labour dominated in 2017, 54.5% of the vote and 49 out of 73 seats. This time round Labour’s share of the vote is somewhat down, but as is the Conservative’s due to the Lib Dem’s experiencing a minor resurgence, this coupled with several high-profile challenges by Lib Dems in normally Labour-Conservative marginals has made predicting the result unusually difficult.
Can we expect a last-minute shift in the polls?
At this late stage of the campaign Andrew believes there are only two known events left that could shift the polls, these are Donald Trump’s visit to the UK and the final head-to-head debate.
So far Donald Trump has been well behaved, refusing to comment on the election. However, there is still time for the outspoken President to damage Boris Johnson’s campaign with a 280-character tweet before he flies back to DC.
This Friday 6/12, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn will go head-to head for the final time before the election. According to Andrew this debate is really Boris Johnson’s to lose, if Corbyn can manage to land a blow the Prime Minister in the debate it could give him a boost ahead of polling day.
However, the public may not be paying much attention to this one. There have been numerous debates in this election and the country could be suffering from collective debate and election fatigue, meaning that the outcome of this debate could have less of an impact on the polls than Labour might hope.
Which seats should we watch out for?
For an indication of how well the Lib Dems are doing, Andrew recommends looking out for North Devon – if they are winning there, the Conservatives will be worried that other Southern seats could be vulnerable. Failure by the Lib Dems to win back the seat however will put the much-touted Lib Dem revival back on ice.
In the Midlands, keep an eye on the former mining seat of Bolsover, which has been held by Labour veteran Dennis Skinner since 1970. If the Conservatives win there they’ll be well on their to forming a majority.
Elsewhere it’ll be worth staying up for a potential “Portillo Moment” in East Dunbartonshire, where Jo Swinson is defending a majority of 5,339. The last time one of the main three party leaders lost their seat at an election was 1935, when Liberal leader Herbert Samuel lost his seat in Darwen.
As mentioned, there are several interesting battles taking place in London, watch out for Battersea and Putney, two South West London marginals where Labour’s vote is predicted to hold a little better than it will up north and throw up some surprising results.
If you’re interested in knowing more about the key seats to look out for, take a look at Headland’s key seat guide series, where we give our thoughts on which seats will likely change hands.