The Conservative party is still on course to win a majority in Thursday’s election, although a new model of the British electorate suggests that Boris Johnson’s polling lead has shrunk and the outcome could be a hung parliament.
According to a comprehensive survey by the pollsters YouGov, the Tories are set to win 339 seats, with Labour on 231, the Liberal Democrats on 15 and the Scottish National party on 41. This would hand the prime minister a majority of 28 in the House of Commons, down from 68 in an earlier model.
The prediction suggests that Jeremy Corbyn has succeeded in narrowing Mr Johnson’s lead, particularly as some pro-Remain voters have returned to Labour.
The model follows a difficult few days on the stump for Mr Johnson. He has struggled with a National Health Service crisis at a Leeds hospital, trying instead to focus on his core message of delivering Brexit.
Labour has closed the gap with his party by two points since the previous comprehensive survey was released.
The YouGov model was produced using a technique known as multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP), which takes polling data over the past seven days from 100,000 panellists across the country. The results are adapted for individual constituencies, taking into account local factors such as the status of the seat and the profile of the candidate. In the 2017 election, its MRP model correctly predicted many of the results.
Several seats may have changed hands since YouGov modelled the electorate two weeks ago. The Conservatives could be on course to hold both Cheltenham and Sedgefield, while several others will potentially be held by Labour, including Kensington, Clwyd South and Wolverhampton South West.
The Liberal Democrats are set to perform marginally better than the previous YouGov model suggested, possibly gaining three extra seats, including South Cambridgeshire and Winchester.
The poll suggests that several ‘red wall’ seats, which are traditionally held by the Labour party, will turn blue, including Bishop Auckland, Don Valley and Dudley North. But the narrowing of the polls suggests that Labour may be on course to gain two seats in London: Putney and Chipping Barnet, the latter represented by Theresa Villiers, the environment secretary.
In Scotland, the SNP could be set to make significant gains at the expense of the Tories and Labour. But the Conservatives could make progress in Wales, taking the seat of Wrexham for the first time since 1922.
Although the Tories may be publicly alarmed at the narrowing of the polls, some officials on Mr Johnson’s team believe the election must appear tight to combat voter complacency. If the result of the YouGov model were to be replicated on Thursday, it would be the party’s best general election outcome in three decades.
Conservative campaign insiders suggested that their internal polling numbers were closer than YouGov’s model. “We are in danger of a hung parliament, it is a very real possibility,” said one official. “We are urging people to get out and see the dangers.”