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24 February 2010

Why we aren’t heading for a hung parliament (yet)

Cameron is still on track for a small majority.

By George Eaton

The latest YouGov daily poll will do little to calm the jitters at Tory HQ. For the third day running, it puts the party just 6 points ahead of Labour, a result that on a uniform national swing would leave David Cameron 34 seats short of an overall majority.

But should the Conservatives really be worried? Daniel Finkelstein has an excellent piece in today’s Times rejecting the crude assumption that the current polls would produce a hung parliament. He writes:

This talk is all based on the very simple idea that the Tory vote will rise and Labour’s fall by pretty much the same amount in every seat in the country. And that isn’t going to happen.

He correctly argues that the Conservatives’ financial advantage in the marginals and the unwinding of anti-Tory tactical voting are likely to guarantee the Conservatives a majority, even with a 6-point lead.

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Over at the Progress website, the YouGov president, Peter Kellner, makes a similar point. He predicts that the Conservatives will win between ten and 20 more Labour seats than would be expected on a uniform swing. This means that Cameron could expect to secure a majority with a 9-10 point lead, rather than the 11-point lead suggested by uniform swing calculations.

PoliticalBetting’s Andy Cooke, who has carried out an extensive analysis of marginal seats, goes further and argues that Cameron could win with a lead of “significantly less” than 9 per cent.

I hope and expect the polls to narrow further as the campaign proper begins, but until then the dream of a hung parliament remains just that.

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