Boris Johnson is on course to win a substantial parliamentary majority in the UK’s general election, according to a new in-depth survey and model of the British electorate.
If an election were held today, pollster YouGov predicts that the Conservative party would win 359 seats, up from 317 seats at the previous election. This would deliver the prime minister a healthy working majority of 68 — the Tories’ largest in over three decades.
The opposition Labour party would lose 51 seats, returning 211 MPs — its second worst defeat since the second world war. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats would gain just one MP, bringing its total to 13. The Scottish National party would sweep up 43 seats out of the 59 in Scotland.
Such an outcome in the poll on December 12 would be a clear victory for the Tories’ pro-Brexit platform and Mr Johnson personally. The prime minister has maintained a consistent polling lead since the campaign began in October. His opponent Jeremy Corbyn has made steady gains in recent days and the polling will spur on leftwing activists for the final two weeks of the campaign.
The SNP would welcome such a gain in seats, as it would further its message for another referendum on secession from the UK. Nigel Farage’s Brexit party would win no seats, although it would split the vote in several Labour pro-Leave areas and deprive the Tories of winning in constituencies such as Hartlepool.
Should the model be proved correct, the result would be a huge disappointment for the Liberal Democrats, who have struggled to gain momentum in this election with an ardently pro-Remain platform. While the party might win Richmond Park, Sheffield Hallam and Cheltenham, it would lose Eastbourne, North Norfolk and Caithness.
YouGov produced the model with a technique known as multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP), which uses polling data from the preceding seven days from 100,000 panellists across the country. The results are adapted for each candidate in each constituency, taking into account local political factors such as whether the seat is marginal and the status of the outgoing MP.
The MRP model successfully predicted the outcome of the 2017 election, whereas regular opinion surveys had suggested the Tories were on course for a majority.
While this model could offer the best indication of the election outcome, the electorate is highly volatile. Academics have warned that Britons are swapping party affiliations at an unprecedented rate as the country reorientates itself down pro-Brexit and anti-Brexit lines.
YouGov’s prediction for the election result speaks to the scale of change. The Tories are predicted to hold the majority of their seats from the 2017 election, including nearly all of its London MPs, but could make significant gains in Leave-supporting areas traditionally represented by the Labour party.
The model predicts that seats in the north of England including Bishop Auckland, Great Grimsby, Don Valley and Ashfield — parts of the so-called “red wall” — could be set to turn blue for the first time in modern history. In the capital, the Conservatives may hold on to seats such as Putney and Wimbledon in south London.
In Wales, Mr Johnson’s party could gain four seats at the expense of Labour, mostly on the north coast. It is a similar case in Scotland, where the Tories could be on track to keep 11 of their 13 MPs. Labour would lose five of its seven MPs north of the border.
As well as losing many seats in its traditional heartlands, Labour is trailing in the typical marginal seats the party requires to form a government. English constituencies currently held by Mr Corbyn such as Lincoln, and Crewe and Nantwich are forecast to flip.
The results of the MRP model will be cautiously welcomed by the Conservative campaign, who are wary of voters and activists believing that the party is on course to win comfortably. “We have to keep everyone focused on the prize, we can’t afford to give up now,” said one cabinet minister.
Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s most influential adviser, warned Brexit activists not to be complacent. “The polls might say Boris is going to win, but don’t believe them,” he wrote in a blog post on Wednesday evening.
The survey, however, will prompt concern for the Labour and the Liberal Democrat campaigns, who are both struggling to make headway — raising questions about why both parties backed Mr Johnson’s call for a snap general election.
Meanwhile, the prime minister was accused last night by Labour of “running scared” of a grilling by the BBC’s Andrew Neil, after it emerged that an expected interview with the prime minister may not take place.
Mr Johnson’s team said it was still “in discussions” with the broadcaster about whether the prime minister would subject himself to the same kind of interrogation that Labour leader Mr Corbyn was given on Tuesday night.