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1 December 2009

Hung parliament: the evidence builds

New ComRes poll puts the Tories on 37 per cent

By Mehdi Hasan

To believe, as I have, for several months now, that the next general election could result in a hung parliament is a “partisan belief”, according to the Tory blogger Iain Dale.

Really? Tell that to the pollsters at ComRes, who have a new survey in today’s Independent putting the Tories on 37 per cent (down 3 points on last month), Labour on 27 per cent (no change), the Liberal Democrats on 20 per cent (up 2 points) and other parties on 16 per cent (up 1 point).

And, as the Independent’s Andy Grice observes:

Because of the way the first-past-the-post voting system works, the figures would leave the Tories six seats away from an overall majority if repeated at the election. They would have 320 seats, Labour 240, the Liberal Democrats 58 and other parties 14. These figures exclude those up for grabs in Northern Ireland. It is the second poll taken in the past two weeks to point to a hung parliament. An Ipsos MORI survey for the Observer, published nine days ago, put the Tories on 37 per cent, Labour on 31 per cent and the Liberal Democrats on 17 per cent.

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I do, however, acknowledge that Lord Ashcroft’s “marginal strategy” could help the Tories overcome the bias of the electoral system and the enormous swing needed at a national level to unseat Labour. The YouGov survey of 32 northern marginal seats, published in the Telegraph at the weekend, seemed to suggest that the Ashcroft strategy (and money!) is working, and gave the Tories a strong lead over Labour.

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From the Telegraph:

The swing of 8 points in the marginal seats is better than the party is recording nationwide and the Tories need much smaller swings to pick up dozens more Labour seats further south. Beating the national average in the key swing seats is central to the Tory strategy for the next election, and the poll will be seen as vindication of the work of Lord Ashcroft, the Conservative vice-chairman who oversees campaigning in these constituencies.

Nonetheless, as the psephologist John Curtice concludes in the Independent, in a piece on the ComRes survey:

Even so, evidently the outcome next May is far from being a foregone conclusion.

To believe that Cameron has — to use the popular cliché — “sealed the deal” with the electorate is thus premature and, perhaps, to borrow a phrase, “partisan”.

 

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