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Eleven bold election predictions

The Tories under 100 seats, Truss and Corbyn to lose, up to 55 Lib Dem gains and more

Image: Getty

This may come as a surprise to Conservative politicians and staffers, but the job of covering politics is not the same as being a tipster on the horse races. The main focus of the job is to explain what’s going on in UK politics, why, and what it means for those of us living in the real world.

It is not to offer predictions as to what happens next – or at least not directly. In reality, anyone covering these issues is constantly trying to tell you what might happen next, and which of those options we think is likeliest, based on our sources, experience and understanding of the rules.

Given that, it feels cowardly not to offer up a few predictions as to what I think is likely to happen on Thursday and in the days immediately afterwards. I have split these into two groups – ones that it will be obvious whether I’m right or not, generally on the more important aspects of the election, and then a few afterwards. I’ve also tried to explain why I’ve made each one. First up, the major predictions:

Labour will take two-thirds of Commons seats – a total of 434 or more: this one is right at the top end of what the polls and MRPs believe Labour will get, but a very high Labour total is a consequence as a result of where I think the Lib Dems and Tories will be. There are quite a few seats where Labour is shown as coming second, but is very close to taking it – and my suspicion is anti-Tory tactical voting will be very efficient this election.

The Liberal Democrats will win 50-70 seats: This would be a seismic result for the party, which won only 11 seats at the 2019 general election, but it would return the Liberal Democrats to roughly where they were in 2010 – as the chief rival to the Conservatives in the South West and the South East outside London.

Almost all of the party’s top 50 seats are held by Tories, so the Lib Dems should take almost all of them, not least thanks to Reform splitting the vote. But the high 60s will probably prove a ceiling for the Lib Dems, as most of their target seats 50-100 are held by Labour, and so are unlikely to be taken.

The Conservatives will win fewer than 100 seats: If Labour is taking 430+ seats and the Lib Dems 50-70, there’s only around 150 seats left – and 32 of those are in Northern Ireland. The result of the first two predictions means that the Conservatives are set to get fewer than 100 seats, which is in line with most but not all polling and MRPs.

The explanation given for why the polls might be too harsh on the Tories is that voters have sounded nicer on the doorstep, and it doesn’t ‘feel’ like a huge landslide – but this is exactly what was said in the days before the 1997 election. On the flipside, several pollsters have flagged on the small print (the methodology) of their MRPs that there is significant downside risk for the Tories for various technical reasons.

The Conservatives will remain the official opposition: Because the Liberal Democrats are unlikely to get more than 70 seats, I think the Tories will just about cling on as the official opposition. This will be new and uncomfortable territory for British politics if I am correct, as the opposition would have fewer than 15% of the seats in the Commons. That doesn’t matter constitutionally, but means the party will struggle just to put up enough frontbenchers.

The Conservatives will secure more votes than Reform (who will come third overall): There are commentators insisting the pollsters are underplaying Reform, but there is little to suggest they are right – polls showed a spike for Reform when Farage announced his return as leader, steady growth for them afterwards, and a fall backwards as we neared polling day. Whether that is Conservative voters returning to try to save the party from wipeout, or fallout from the various racism scandals facing the party, is all but impossible to say but doesn’t matter for the result.

Reform will win fewer than five seats: Expect Nigel Farage to kick up bloody murder about First Past The Post after the election, as while I expect Reform to get more votes than the Liberal Democrats, they will come nowhere close in terms of seats. I have hedged my bets and said “fewer than five” here, but in reality I would be surprised if any candidates other than Nigel Farage and “30p” Lee Anderson won a seat.

Turnout will not be that low: Turnout will be 60% to 65%, and not – as some have forecast – set an all-time low for a general election (which was 59.4% in 2001). Elections which are seen as foregone conclusions tend to have lower turnout (and turnout has been falling for decades), but there is a sizeable share of the electorate genuinely motivated to see the Tories out.

Finally, here are some bonus predictions that are a little less certain (and less clear), but I’ll put out there:

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss’s seats will be closer than expected, and could be the shocks of the night: If pushed, I think Truss will lose her seat, and Sunak will just about cling on to his – but there’s maybe a 1/3 or 1/4 chance he doesn’t

Labour will beat Jeremy Corbyn in Islington North: Corbyn’s campaign has been incredibly active in the constituency and his posters are by far the most visible, but this can be misleading. Corbyn supporters commissioned a poll of the seat showing Labour 14 points ahead, and Corbyn voters are more likely to be active enough to put up posters etc. Corbyn will do very well for an independent – maybe 12-15,000 votes – but not win the seat.

David Lammy will be Keir Starmer’s foreign secretary: Iain Dale became the latest to repeat Westminster rumours that Lammy would not be kept on. But moving him would be astonishing: he’s built great US contacts, has handled Israel-Hamas sensitively (and likely helped Labour keep voters onside, largely), and secured a huge PR win over D-Day. Those briefing against him may find it backfires.

Labour’s left flank will do any win down: Expect to see Labour’s vote share compared to Corbyn’s in 2017 to suggest any landslide is not ‘real’ – the same was done by Conservatives in 1997, who noted that Blair secured fewer votes in 1997 than John Major did in 1992 (it’s true, he got 500,000 less). Expect fewer mentions of the 2019 vote share.

Assuming the bosses at The New European haven’t fired me for getting too many of these wrong, I’ll come and tackle each in turn and explain what I got right, wrong, and why after the election.

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