Conservative losses: Just how low could the Tories go?

Conservative losses: Just how low could the Tories go?

Best for Britain published the results of another MRP poll on Tuesday, which had the Conservatives winning 129 seats at the next General Election. This was for 28.8% of the vote (excluding don’t knows and non-voters). 

That MRP poll was a considerable improvement for the Tories compared with the previous one conducted by Focaldata. In the autumn of last year, they found that the Tories would win just 64 seats. This was with the Tories winning 22.7% of the vote. 

One way to evaluate the likelihood of such vote shares producing the seat numbers predicted by these MRP polls is to look back at 1997. The two charts below show the extra swing against the Conservatives that would have been required for them to lose the 165 seats they managed to hold on to. In both cases, they assume a perfect swing from the Conservatives to the party that came second in the seat. 

The Conservatives won 31.5% of the vote in Great Britain in 1997. A vote share in the region of 23% would be getting on for nine percentage points lower than what they achieved in 1997. Based on this analysis, that would have left the Tories with 11 seats, somewhat lower than the 64 seats Focaldata estimated last autumn. 

However, if we apply the same logic to the 2.5 percentage point swing implied by this week’s MRP, then the Conservatives would have won around 121 seats in 1997. That’s pretty close to the 129 seats estimated by the MRP. 

There are, of course, a whole load of caveats to this analysis. Simply assuming a perfect swing to the party in second place is pessimistic in the extreme from the point of view of the Conservatives. Furthermore, the 1992 and 2019 elections produced results that differ in many ways. In particular, the starting position of the Lib Dems is not as good as it was after 1992 and the Tories hold quite a different set of seats today than they did in the 1990s. 

Nevertheless, should the Conservative share of the vote fall to 1997 levels or beyond, it will certainly be a terrible night for them. This analysis may give us some clues of just how bad it might be if the Conservative polling numbers don’t improve between now and polling day. 

Tom Leveson Gower

Tom Leveson Gower posts on PB as TLG86

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