A baaa-rnstorming election or a-sheep at the wheel?

CamlambThe main party leaders return to work today, after an extended weekend managing their numerous kitchens and casually feeding their miscellaneous farm animals.

Miliband will have been feeling buoyed going into the long weekend having been hailed widely as beating expectations in his debate performances, with the seven way debate not giving the other parties quite the boost they were hoping for. Cameron too will be feeling optimistic, over the last few weeks the imperceptibly narrow gap between the parties seems to be widening in the Tories’ favour. Yet it’s all academic at this stage, as either way the result is still looking to be a hung parliament. But whoever gets the most seats will have the moral authority for ‘first dibs’ on forming a Government, so the Tories will still be pleased to be eking out even the smallest of leads.

Clegg too may also be feeling chirpy this Tuesday morning, with Sunday’s YouGov poll putting him on double digits for the first time. Shockingly the voters are also feeling positive, with the party leaders’ ratings all broadly going up following the debates. YouGov polling released this morning shows every party, except the Greens, improving their ‘honesty’ ratings; that said the Greens are the only party seen overall as ‘honest’. The only leader who may be entering the new week feeling worse for wear will be Nigel Farage, who will have spent Sunday contemplating his fortunes, with a ComRes poll indicating his campaign might be going south, in Thanet – it showed that Farage is essentially level-pegging with the no-name Tory and Labour candidates.

Labour will also be scratching their heads over Scotland, hopes of a last minute rally are fading and it seems increasingly certain that Sturgeon will be the big winner at this election, with the SNP up four in the latest Panelbase poll. The SNP are now on 45% and Labour 29% – which is broadly in line with all the other recent polls. Party apparatchiks in Labour HQ will be crossing their fingers and hoping for a good performance by Jim Murphy ahead of the head to head televised debate between all the main party leaders north of the border this evening.

The overall message of the polling remains the same. It’s too close to call and, though we talk percentages, really it’s the seats on the day that matter. YouGov Nowcast is predicting that Labour will emerge the biggest party with a meagre 275 seats to the Tories’ 264 (the SNP the third largest with 56, essentially taking all of Scotland). If this were the eventuality (bearing in mind Sinn Fein do not attend), Labour would be unable to form a coalition without the SNP who they have promised not to go into a formal coalition with. The other organisations looking at this, Elections Etc, Election Forecast, May 2015 and The Guardian’s poll projection, all show a Tory lead with totals varying from 276-300 seats – with the possibility of a formal coalition looking unlikely still. The Tories will have a harder time than Labour forming a coalition because of their lack of natural allies, with the weakened Lib Dems looking again like their main source of support.

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