The Liberal Democrats made a splash recently when they briefed a series of favourable private polls showing the party doing better than the national figures would suggest. Our sister site, May2015, went so far as to declare that the party will win “at least” 30 seats on the back of the figures. Now they’ve released one of the polls, showing the party just a point behind in Hornsey & Wood Green, a seat that, as I’ve said before, Labour expect to win even if they fall short badly across the country.
The numbers have already been greeted with scepticism by others in the polling community. The survey is weighted back to 2010 recalled voting, rather than to the midterm of the parliament. According to James Morris, Labour’s pollster, this would transform Labour’s narrow lead in the constituency to a seven-point one. Laurence Janta-Lipinski of YouGov, meanwhile, warns that the poll’s structure – which asks respondents whether they approve or disapprove of the local candidates before asking the final question – many distort the outcome.
It may be, of course, that the Liberal Democrats’ private pollsters are just smarter than everyone else’s pollsters. So let’s take the number at face value for a moment. Lynne Featherstone has been the Liberal candidate in the seat since 1997. She’s an active, hard-working, high profile, and has held that she’s held for a decade, the last time by more than 6,500 votes. Compare that to say, Berwick-upon-Tweed, where the longstanding Liberal MP, Alan Beith, is retiring, and his would-be successor, Julie Pörksen, inherits a majority of just 2,690. Or Wells, where the party has the benefit of incumbency but Tessa Munt has a majority of only 800.
Put bluntly: even if this “secret poll” is taken at face value, if the Liberal Democrats are a point behind Labour in Hornsey & Wood Green, what kind of a bloodbath are they facing elsewhere?