Did Labour lose half a million votes in the final 48 hours?

Did Labour lose half a million votes in the final 48 hours?

    Should Tony Blair have had a positive message to close on?

The closing two days of the campaign were dominated by Labour’s no holds barred warning of the dangers of what could happen if one in ten party supporters did not vote or supported another party. Such was the importance of getting this message across that it devoted its entire final election broadcast on the Tuesday to the subject. The emphasis was almost 100% on the negative.

    Yet looking back at the polls from the period it’s questionable whether this tough approach had the desired effect and, in fact, the opposite might have occurred.

The final surveys by five of the six major pollsters that were completed by the Tuesday and Wednesday reported Labour leads that were the equivalent of 1.3 million to 1.56 million votes. Yet come polling day the actual margin was 784,000. These figures are huge particularly when set against the overall Labour vote total of just 9.56m

If this had been the picture from one sort of pollster you could more easily dismiss it as being a product of the methodology employed. But the five pollsters represented the full spectrum of polling approaches with two telephone, one face to face, and two internet surveys. Also, in a big improvement on 2001, all but one of the final twelve polls had the Tories at within 1.2%, or just over 300,000 votes, of their final total.

Of course Labour won the election and enjoy a very substantial, if reduced, majority in the Commons.

    But if Labour’s lead had been at the levels that almost all the polls were picking up within the final two days it would have had another three figure majority which was somewhat closer to the 94 seats that the spread-betting markets were predicting.

According the Andrew Grice in the Indy at the weekend the election result has left Tony Blair “frustrated and hurt…. after failing to win as big a majority as he hoped on 5 May.” Maybe he has only himself to blame for not giving voters a more positive reason for voting Labour than just not being the Tories.

Mike Smithson

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