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. 

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

I'll vote against bombing Isis - but my conscience is far from clear

Chi Onwurah lays out why she'll be voting against British airstrikes in Syria.

I have spent much of the weekend considering how I will vote on the question of whether the UK should extend airstrikes against Daesh/Isis from Iraq to Syria, seeking out and weighing the evidence and the risks.

My constituents have written, emailed, tweeted, facebooked or stopped me in the street to share their thoughts. Most recognised what a difficult and complex decision it is. When I was selected to be the Labour candidate for Newcastle Central I was asked what I thought would be the hardest part of being an MP.

I said it would be this.

I am not a pacifist, I believe our country is worth defending and our values worth fighting for. But the decision to send British Armed Forces into action is, rightly, a heavy responsibility.

For me it comes down to two key questions. The security of British citizens, and the avoidance of civilian casualties. These are separate operational and moral questions but they are linked in that it is civilian casualties which help fuel the Daesh ideology that we cannot respect and value the lives of those who do not believe as we do. There is also the important question of solidarity with the French in the wake of their grievous and devastating loss; I shall come to that later.

I listened very carefully to the Prime Minister as he set out the case for airstrikes on Thursday and I share his view that Daesh represents a real threat to UK citizens. However he did not convince me that UK airstrikes at this time would materially reduce that threat. The Prime Minister was clear that Daesh cannot be defeated from the air. The situation in Syria is complex and factionalised, with many state and non-state actors who may be enemies of our enemy and yet not our friend. The Prime Minister claimed there were 70,000 ground troops in the moderate Free Syrian Army but many experts dispute that number and the evidence does not convince me that they are in a position to lead an effective ground campaign. Bombs alone will not prevent Daesh obtaining money, arms and more recruits or launching attacks on the UK. The Prime Minister did not set out how we would do that, his was not a plan for security and peace in Syria with airstrikes a necessary support to it, but a plan to bomb Syria, with peace and security cited in support of it. That is not good enough for me.

Daesh are using civilian population as human shields. Syrians in exile speak of the impossibility of targeting the terrorists without hitting innocent bystanders. I fear that bombing Raqqa to eliminate Daesh may be like bombing Gaza to eliminate Hamas – hugely costly in terms of the civilian population and ultimately ineffectual.

Yet the evil that Daesh perpetrate demands a response. President Hollande has called on us to join with French forces. I lived in Paris for three years, I spent time in just about every location that was attacked two weeks ago, I have many friends living in Paris now, I believe the French are our friends and allies and we should stand and act in solidarity with them, and all those who have suffered in Mali, Kenya, Nigeria, Lebanon, Tunisia and around the world.

But there are other ways to act as well as airstrikes. Britain is the only G7 country to meet its international development commitments, we are already one of the biggest humanitarian contributors to stemming the Syrian crisis, we can do more not only in terms of supporting refugees but helping those still in Syria, whether living in fear of Daesh or Assad. We can show the world that our response is to build rather than bomb. The Prime Minister argues that without taking part in the bombing we will not have a place at the table for the reconstruction. I would think our allies would be reluctant to overlook our financial commitment.

We can also do more to cut off Daesh funding, targeting their oil wells, their revenues, their customers and their suppliers. This may not be as immediately satisfying as bombing the terrorists but it is a more effective means of strangling them.

The vast majority of the constituents who contacted me were against airstrikes. I agree with them for the reasons I set out above. I should say that I have had no experience of bullying or attempts at intimidation in reaching this decision, Newcastle Central is too friendly, frank, comradely and Geordie a constituency for that. But some have suggested that I should vote against airstrikes to ensure a “clear conscience” ’. This is not the case. There will be more killings and innocent deaths whether there are UK airstrikes or not, and we will all bear a portion of responsibility for them.

A version of this article was originally sent to Chi Onwurah's constituents, and can be read here