Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
12 February 2019

Sorry YouGov, future election predictions are redundant until we resolve the Brexit crisis

The pollster’s forecast of a slim Tory majority looks plausible, but can’t account for the Brexit deadlock. 

By Stephen Bush

Good morning. Conservatives forever? That’s the prognosis if you believe the estimate from YouGov’s MRP model for the Times. According to its forecast – which accurately predicted the outcome of the 2017 election – an early election would see the Conservatives up four seats to 321, enough for a wafer-thin majority (although 325 is the magic number for a majority of one, the working number is smaller since Sinn Fein do not take their seats), Labour down 12 from 262 to 250, the SNP up four from 35 to 39, the Liberal Democrats up four from 12 to 16, and the rest up one from six to seven.

How seriously should you take the prediction? Well, just as there is no reason to suppose that Survation will necessarily get the next election right just because they got the 2017 outcome right, closest past performance is no guarantee of future return.

These numbers pass the smell test: they look plausible and accord with everything we can see and hear about how people feel about the political parties at the moment.

Don’t forget, though, that the night before Theresa May unveiled her disastrous manifesto in 2017 the MRP model predicted a Conservative majority of 80.  A lot can change in an election campaign. Much hinges on how a mini-Ukip revival affects the seat-by-seat picture, but we don’t know if this new and more dysfunctional incarnation of Ukip will be able to field candidates in every seat or anything like it. And we have no idea if, faced with the forced choice between a Conservative government and a Labour one that our unlovely electoral system foists on the voters whether the people saying they will vote Liberal Democrat, Green, SNP or Plaid Cymru will grudgingly lend their votes to Labour again.

But the biggest caveat I’d put on these numbers is, of course, the Brexit deadlock. However it is resolved, whether through a no-deal exit, May’s deal, May’s deal revised along Corbyn’s lines, or no Brexit at all it is going to leave at least one of the big two parties with their coalition in pieces. Even if there is an election while Brexit is unresolved, much depends on how it comes about (one important battle will be which party gets the blame for making people vote again).

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. Your guide to the best writing across politics, ideas, books and culture - both in the New Statesman and from elsewhere - sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Unless and until we know how the Brexit crisis ends, predicting the next election result is akin to predicting which species will become Earth’s dominant one after the meteor wipes out all human life: an interesting intellectual exercise, but not one that is likely to reveal very much about anything.