Could the Tories miss out by just 5,357 votes?

The 16 constituencies that will deprive David Cameron of an overall majority.

Another day, another raft of opinion polls -- but how to interpret them? We know that applying a uniform national swing is unsatisfactory, as it takes no account of concentrated canvassing in marginals, regional issues, or the incumbency factor, likely to help popular sitting MPs regardless of the relative unpopularity of their party.

Yet, only the very occasional survey polls opinion on a constituency-by-constituency basis, and even then only in key marginals.

In an attempt to make more sense of national numbers as they apply across the country's 650 constituencies, Resolver Systems has developed a forecasting model that looks to make more of "where votes come from".

For example, Liberal Democrat voters in 2005 who say they are switching to another party are much more likely to vote for the Conservatives than they are not to vote at all. However, people who voted for parties that were not one of the "big three" are much more likely to stay home than they are to vote for the Conservatives. (The modellng is more complex than that, but that's the gist.)

16 seats that could deprive Cameron of his majority

 

Applying this method to the most recent Guardian/ICM poll (crucially ICM is one of the few polling firms to ask a question about past voting behaviour), the predicted outcome of the election would leave the Tories up by 100 seats but still 16 short of an overall majority.

The constituencies that would have deprived the Tories of power are listed above. The tiny majorities in all 16 amount to 5,357 -- in other words, the number of votes between a hung parliament and an overall majority.

It's worth noting that Populus has begun asking the "previous voting" question and Daniel Finkelstein and his Fink Tank team at the Times are attempting to do something similar. Yesterday, based on the latest Times/Populus poll, they predicted the Tories would be seven seats short of power.

We'll be returning to the Resolver numbers between now and election day.

Follow the New Statesman team on Facebook.

Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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With the BBC Food’s collection under threat, here's how to make the most of online recipes

Do a bit of digging, trust your instincts – and always read the comments.

I don’t think John Humphrys is much of a chef. Recently, as his Today co-presenter Mishal Husain was discussing the implications of the BBC’s decision to axe its Food website (since commuted to transportation to the Good Food platform, run by its commercial arm), sharp-eared listeners heard the Humph claim that fewer recipes on the web could only be a good thing. “It would make it easier!” he bellowed in the background. “We wouldn’t have to choose between so many!”

Husain also seemed puzzled as to why anyone would need more than one recipe for spaghetti bolognese – but, as any keen cook knows, you can never have too many different takes on a dish. Just as you wouldn’t want to get all your news from a single source, it would be a sad thing to eat the same bolognese for the rest of your life. Sometimes only a molto autentico version, as laid down by a fierce Italian donna, rich with tradition and chopped liver, will do – and sometimes, though you would never admit it in a national magazine, you crave the comfort of your mum’s spag bol with grated cheddar.

The world wouldn’t starve without BBC Food’s collection but, given that an online search for “spaghetti bolognese recipe” turns up about a million results, it would have been sad to have lost one of the internet’s more trustworthy sources of information. As someone who spends a large part of each week researching and testing recipes, I can assure you that genuinely reliable ones are rarer than decent chips after closing time. But although it is certainly the only place you’ll find the Most Haunted host Yvette Fielding’s kedgeree alongside Heston Blumenthal’s snail porridge, the BBC website is not the only one that is worth your time.

The good thing about newspaper, magazine and other commercial platforms is that most still have just enough budget to ensure that their recipes will have been made at least twice – once by the writer and once for the accompanying photographs – though sadly the days when everyone employed an independent recipe tester are long gone. Such sites also often have sufficient traffic to generate a useful volume of comments. I never make a recipe without scrolling down to see what other people have said about it. Get past the “Can’t wait to make this!” brigade; ignore the annoying people who swap baked beans for lentils and then complain, “This is nothing like dhal”; and there’s usually some sensible advice in there, too.

But what about when you leave the safety of the big boys and venture into the no man’s land of the personal blog? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff and find a recipe that actually works? You can often tell how much work a writer has put in by the level of detail they go into: if they have indicated how many people it serves, or where to find unusual ingredients, suggested possible tweaks and credited their original sources, they have probably made the dish more than once. The photography is another handy clue. You don’t have to be Annie Leibovitz to provide a good idea of what the finished dish ought to look like.

Do a bit of digging as part of your prep. If you like the look of the rest of the site, the author’s tastes will probably chime with your own. And always, always, wherever the recipe is from, read it all the way through, even before you order the shopping. There is nothing more annoying than getting halfway through and then realising that you need a hand blender to finish the dish, just as the first guest arrives.

Above all, trust your instincts. If the cooking time seems far too short, or the salt content ridiculously high, it probably is, so keep an eye on that oven, check that casserole, keep tasting that sauce. As someone who once published a magic mince pie recipe without any sugar, I’m living proof that, occasionally, even the very best of us make mistakes. 

Felicity Cloake is the New Statesman’s food columnist. Her latest book is The A-Z of Eating: a Flavour Map for Adventurous Cooks.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad