Montfort 2024 Election Night Primer


Woolf Thomson Jones

The State of Play

* Labour have consistently held a 20-point lead in voting intention over the Conservatives.

* However, both have lost ground during the campaign through growing support for both the Liberal Democrats and Reform.

* However, MRP trends consistently show a large Labour majority, despite shifts in voting intention.

* MRPs also show the differential impact of first-past-the-post voting with Liberal Democrats set to reach their 2010 levels of around 50 seats while Reform averaging only 2 seats, with similar voting intention levels.

 

The i, Poll of Polls, 3rd July

The Big Questions

We have run through each of our top questions, providing the background information and key data points to ensure you stay ahead of the big questions on Election Night:

  1. How big a majority will Labour win?
  2. How robust is the Labour majority?
  3. Is this 1997 again?
  4. What’s going to be left of the Conservatives and what next?
  5. Who will define the next era of the Conservatives on Election Night?
  6. Will both the Red and Blue Walls fall?
  7. How much will Labour lose to the Left?
  8. How much will Reform hurt both the major parties?
  9. What’s happening in Scotland?
  10. Where does all this leave Britain on the international stage?
  11. Have the pollsters got it right?

 

1. How big a majority will Labour win?

* The Conservatives have focussed their messaging heavily in last weeks on “stopping a Labour supermajority”, but what does that mean?

* Firstly, a supermajority is not a real thing in UK politics. The size of a majority is technically irrelevant and there are no procedures or changes that can be made with a majority of 100 that cannot be done with a majority of one.

* The current MRP ranges put Labour between a 162 and 382-seat majority. Labour’s 1997 majority was 179.

* It has been easy to assume that a Labour majority is going to happen and will be large; however, three points stand out:

* The swing required to reach an overall majority (of just one) in 2024 is larger (12.7%) than the swing for Blair’s election in 1997 (10.2%).

* Despite Conservative messaging on a “supermajority”, 40% of undecided voters do not think a Labour majority is likely, while 23% even believe Labour will be the official opposition.

* Small cuts to vote share can have a huge impact on the outcome. If more voters go Reform rather than Labour, the majority can be significantly reduced (see chart below).

 

The i aggregated MRP polls showing predicted number of seats, last updated 3rd July (does not include final YouGov poll due Wednesday 3rd at 5pm)


Britan Predicts and New Statesman analysis of percentage point cuts in Labours vote share on overall majority


2. How robust is the Labour majority? Are we in for a decade of Labour government?

* A Labour majority could be one of the most ‘efficient’ ever, i.e. receiving a large number of seats for a relatively low number of votes and vote share.

* If Labour do win a majority, it will likely be one of the lowest ever vote shares to achieve a majority. It will likely be the lowest ever for a three-figure majority.

* Whilst it is clearly good for Labour, in reality this means they will have a large number of seats with slim majorities, leaving the majority highly susceptible to small swings at the next election. Delivering for 2029 is a priority on Day One for Labour.

* With a large majority will also come challenges of party management. There is no good number for easy management. The Conservatives struggled to maintain discipline with an 80-seat majority. How quickly focus shifts to internal party management will be very interesting. Whether it is ensuring a large number of professionally motivated Labour MPs stay onside with only 50 senior roles to go round or if you can keep the Hard Left in check. Keeping a large majority happy will not be easy.


The Sunday Times analysis showing the efficiency of the 2024 seat projections, a low vote share for high seat wins


Focaldata analysis showing the shift of seats in 2024 to lower winning margins, meaning smaller majorities for more MPs

 

3. Is this 1997 again?

* The polling makes this look like another Labour landslide, similar if not bigger than 1997, but can these elections really be compared?

* There has been debate over the relative popularity of the two leaders – Blair and Starmer. The figure below shows that while Blair was popular, it may be a slight post-rationalisation to see his win as the product of a wave of extraordinary popularity. In fact, it was as much the same repudiation of the Conservative government at the time, with the net approval ratings between party leaders similar.

* Blair in 1997 had the buttress of strong economic growth as he looked to improve the key services that mattered to voters such as education and health, with reforms closely followed by increased spending and GDP growth. In Blair’s first term GDP growth averaged 3.6%, compared with the 1.6% predicted from 2024-28.

* Starmer will not have the luxury of increased spending as he looks to implement a fairly radical two-term policy agenda centred on planning liberalisation, rail nationalisation, and NHS reform. Each of these areas will take time and require detailed, incremental changes, potentially leading frustrated voters to dump the Labour Party at the next election midway through the project.


Ipsos comparison of approval ratings between Blair and Starmer


4. What’s left of the Conservatives? And what next?

* The result of the 2024 GE does not stop at potentially removing the Conservatives from office. The MPs that remain will play a key role in shaping the future of the party.

* In Canada in 1993, the Conservatives were wiped out with only 2 seats left. It would be 12 years and a merger with a rival conservative party called Reform, before they would come back to power as the Conservative Party of Canada. The scale of the result on Thursday will dictate the future of the party with obvious parallels to the Canadian result.

* But the question is not just how many seats the Conservatives lose, but who they lose. Whether the remaining MPs are moderate or on the right wing will make a huge difference to the future of the party. Could we see a Reform merger? Could we see the total destruction of the right of the party?

* A recent Guardian analysis of the YouGov MRP showed just less than a third of Conservative ‘big beasts’ (current Cabinet, former Cabinet, or long serving MPs) are confidently projected to keep their seats. This includes three of the previous bidders for the Conservative leadership: Tom Tugendhat, Kemi Badenoch, and Suella Braverman. Priti Patel, another contender for next leader, is also predicted to be safe.

 


The Guardian analysis showing two thirds of Conservative ‘big beats’ are likely to be gone by 5th July, including the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Grant Shapps (Defence)


5.
Who will define the next era of Conservatism on Election Night?

* The ‘battle for the soul of the Conservative Party’ has been raging since Brexit in 2016. This election and the Conservative strategy has been dominated by arguments in Conservative circles over whether the party has gone ‘Right’ enough on key policies like immigration or if it has gone too far, with the One Nation Conservatives focusing on moving the party back to the centre ground.

* As the exit polls come in, this battle will come to the fore and we expect to see strong briefing from both sides on ‘why’ the election result has occurred.

* With many tipping more right-wing candidates like Kemi Badenoch and Priti Patel for the next leader of the Party or moderates like Tom Tugendhat, it will be interesting to see who hits the airwaves first and how they explain the result.

* In many ways the starting gun was fired this morning with Suella Braverman calling the election lost, criticising Sunak, and praising Farage and Reform. A long night for the Conservatives!

 


6. Will both the Red Wall and the Blue Wall fall? How big is the tactical vote?

* In 2019 Boris Johnson and the Conservatives won the Red Wall, taking long-held traditional Labour seats in the North and Midlands. In 2019 it was often remarked that these were ‘lent’ votes that needed to be secured over the coming five years.

* Under current projections, the Red Wall is set to go Red again, often with Reform splitting the 2019 Conservative vote.

* The Conservatives’ focus on Reform voter issues such as immigration has also opened up a Liberal Democrat opposition in traditional Conservative heartlands in the South.

* A number of MRP projections now show the Lib Dems taking a number of seats from the Conservatives in the South.

* Tactical voting is proving to be a larger issue for Conservatives in this election, contributing to the likely fall of both the Red Wall and Blue Wall as informed voters switch their vote from their first choice to the party most likely to defeat the Conservatives in a given seat (Lib Dem/Labour being the largest switchers).

* In aiming to hold Reform voters on the right of the party, will the Conservatives get the worst of both worlds and lose the Red and the Blue Wall?


YouGov vote share comparison of actual vs implied, indicating scale of tactical voting in 2024


YouGov MRP (11th June-18th June) seat change prediction, showing the Labour gains across the Red Wall and Lib Dem gains in the Blue Wall


7. How much will Labour lose to the Left?

* Since 2019, under Sir Keir Starmer, Labour have moved to the centre. Whilst this is part of the reason for their success in the polls and potential election win, it has left them exposed to the Left in some areas that could see them lose seats.

* Dividing lines between the traditional Left and the Labour Party, such as Gaza and net zero/climate action, remain potential pitfalls.

* The Green Party, the Workers Party, and independents like Jeremy Corbyn are likely to harm the Labour vote and, in some places, could win seats against promising or senior Labour candidates such as Thangam Debbonaire (Shadow Culture Media and Sport) or Chris Ward (Sir Keir Starmer aide).

* This left wing is unlikely to seriously dent Labour’s prospects, but it does point to two issues:

* There are strong policy dividing lines within the party, even in the event of a win.

* Labour’s governing coalition, including members of the Hard Left, could be fragile.

 


Electoral Calculus MRP for Bristol Central showing Thangam Debbonaire on course to lose to the Green Party

 

8. How much will Reform hurt the two major parties?

* Reform have always been seen as a significant threat to the Conservative vote, and since Nigel Farage has entered the campaign, Reform have settled around 16% of the vote. In some polls they lead the Conservatives.

* A large part of the Conservative campaign has been targeted at winning back those voters with tough policies on immigration and strong pension protection. Many have argued that it is hard to outflank Farage, and so it is proving with a stubbornly high vote share for Reform in the polls.

* Farage has not been content with just the Conservative vote, pointing out at the campaign launch that both UKIP and the Brexit Party took Labour votes before and that Reform will do it again.

* Analysis by the New Statesman has shown that if 5% of expected Conservative-to-Labour switchers go Reform, Labour could lose around 12 seats it thought it would gain from Conservatives. Small but meaningful.

 


Electoral Calculus projected results from Conservative Chairman Richard Holden’s seat, showing a Labour win as a result of a split vote between Conservative and Reform

 

The Sunday Times analysis comparing voting intention for 2019 Labour voters and 2019 Conservative voters, 2% are voting Reform compared with 24% of 2019 Conservative voters

 


9. What’s happening in Scotland?

* Whilst there has been less focus on what is happening in Scotland, the results hold the key to the size of the Labour majority.

* A really poor performance by the SNP (fewer than 10 seats), could mean Labour dominance in Scotland and a significantly larger majority.

* Most Scottish seats are expected to be announced between 1.30am and 4am.

* The SNP have been struggling in the polls and approval ratings since former leader Nicola Sturgeon was embroiled in an embezzlement scandal and her husband, Peter Murrell, was charged with those offences. Humza Yousuf also resigned. The Party is now led by John Swinney, a close ally of Sturgeon.

 


YouGov MRP predictions showing the SNP going from 48 to 17 seats, while Labour go from 1 to 34 seats

 


10. Have the pollsters got it right?

* We have entered an age where data and research on voting opinion is coming thicker and faster than ever before. The new MRP polls that predict specific seat outcomes at nationally have been more dominant in media coverage than ever before.

* The polls, as shown above, are all predicting large Labour majorities, but the variation is quite large. Some are predicting Conservatives down to 60 seats, others have them up around 130. There will be a lot of interest in which pollster actually comes closest to predicting the outcome. Even more interesting will be the industry reckoning if they are all way off.

* Many will be asking if the tail is starting to wag the dog. Are polls cementing opinion? Are polls impacting turnout? Should public polls during election campaigns be allowed?

* Only today there has been commentary from a number of pollsters cautioning over the issues with MRP, with both Chris Hanretty, UK pollster and academic, and Kevin Cunningham, former Labour adviser and academic, writing about the pitfalls of the model, citing misjudgement over voting intention and the uniformity of vote share across the country as having huge impacts on outcome. It could yet be the higher estimates are way off!

* As Hanretty remarked: “On Friday morning there is a chance we will have egg on our faces. I am dwelling more on that chance than the chance we will look like seers”.

* What we can say for certain is this will be a big night for an industry which has innovated in this election with new models for analysing voter opinion and they will hope that their methods reflect what the British public decide to do on voting day.

 


11. Where does this leave Britain on the international stage?

* 2024 is the busiest year ever for democratic elections globally, with over 70 national elections being held.

* The recent French and European elections, as well as the upcoming US elections, are showing a shift to the right and the continued (if not stop-start) growth of right wing or populist, anti-globalisation politics amongst Western nations.

* If Labour win, this could leave Britain with one of the only centrist, internationalist, and pro-free trade governments in the West. It may be that Britain has simply, with Brexit, already undergone this political cycle and is through the other side, though it may leave Labour with a more difficult landscape to manage on planned international agreements on immigration and trade.

* Starmer will look to use his first few weeks to signal that Britain is back on the world stage at a number of major international events, including NATO’s 75th anniversary summit in Washington DC. With huge foreign policy challenges likely to consume significant amounts of time and focus, a Labour government is set to focus on resets with Europe, the “global south”, and on climate change.

* Whilst there may be some political isolation, there are already stories about a large Labour majority boosting Britain’s international credibility for business as a safe haven of stability. How times change!

 


Bloomberg chart on sentiment behind the pound at its least bearish since Brexit, demonstrating the market impact of political instability in Europe

 

 

For further information please contact the team publicaffairs@montfort.london

 

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