What would be a shock result on 05/05/05?
In 1997 so many people had been affected by John Major’s shock victory five year’s earlier that few quite believed what the opinion polls were telling them. Received opinion had it that – yes – New Labour was going to win but very few were prepared to forecast or even bet on a landslide majority of the size that happened.
The experience of the amazing shock of April 10 1992 when none of the polls even hinted at the eventual 8% Tory margin – made punters and pundits very cautious. All the talk in the days leading upto May 1st 1997 was of silent Tories who would suddenly appear. Labour’s massive poll leads were simply not believed.
It was ironic that 1997 was the pollsters best election in years and yet it was the one when they were least believed during the campaign.
June 2001 was a shock in its own way. Poll after poll had mega Labour leads and after what had happened four years earlier people believed them implicitly. Yet in terms of vote share the eventual Labour margin of 9.3% was nothing like the hugely exaggerated figures that had been forecast. The two nearest pollsters which forecast 11% leads were Rasmussen with its automated surveys and one of two final week surveys by ICM. The other had 17%.
Although not on the scale of 1992 the pollsters’ had a pretty bad election as we have discussed here. Their embarassment was obscured by the extraordinary way that the Tories were unable to gain seats even though they cut Labour’s national vote margin by a quarter.
What had been driving received opinion today is the assumption that the vote-seats distribution would work for Labour just as it did in 2001. This view is now changing as pundits start talking more and more of tactical vote unwind and Lib Dem targeting.
This is reflected in the seat betting markets where the top range is 360+ and the lower one is 335 or below.
So a shock result for 2005 could be Labour winning by the landslide majority that the polls are predicting – or there being a hung parliament.
The normality of British General Election results is that they are a shock. We’ll have to wait until the morning of May 6 2005, the day after everybody is predicting for the election to see if that normality will have continued.