YouGov polling expert makes surprise prediction about impact of Brexit Party announcement
PUBLISHED: 14:41 11 November 2019 | UPDATED: 15:56 11 November 2019
A YouGov pollster has said Nigel Farage’s decision not to stand in 317 Conservative seats will only hurt the Conservative party.
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"I hate to burst everybody's bubble, but I'm not sure this makes much difference at all," said Chris Curtis, who has worked on YouGov polls for four years.
"On current polling, the most important seats are the Labour held marginals, which aren't affected by this announcement," he said.
On Monday, Nigel Farage announced the Brexit Party would stand down in 317 seats where the Conservatives are predicted to win, and added he would pour the party's resources into preventing Labour from electing any MPs.
With Labour unwilling to join a pact with the Lib Dems, Green Party and Plaid Cymru, many were anxious Farage's so called 'leave alliance' would allow a pro-Brexit majority government to form.
However, according to Curtis "the number of seats the announcement effects [on current polling] can probably be counted on one hand".
In a Twitter thread and accompanying article for YouGov, Curtis said: "Whilst it will certainly help the Tories retain the seats it currently holds, the Brexit Party will still be standing in the seats the Conservative Party hopes to gain from Labour in order to secure a majority.
"The most important swing to look at in the polls is the one between Labour and the Conservatives. Despite a move away from two-party politics since the last election, it is still the case that most marginal seats are battles between Labour and the Conservatives.
"On current polling we have seen around a four percent swing from Labour to the Conservatives, which would see the Tories gaining a large chunk of seats off Labour.
"Given this, Farage's decision to stand aside in Conservative-held seats and not in Labour-held seats will likely make very little difference."
Curtis says there are three caveats to his claim.
Firstly, the increase in Lib Dem and SNP vote means there is likely to be a swing against the Tories in seats where they are battling those parties.
Secondly, the announcement may mitigate a surge in support for Labour if the Labour vote share recovers. Finally, it is hard to tell what effect Farage's message will have on perception of the parties.
Curtis explained: "It could be that even in seats where the Brexit Party is standing, voters that might otherwise have supported the party now feel more comfortable voting Tory after Farage's comments.
"However given the Brexit Party was already trending downwards in the polls, it looked like this was happening already. So overall, despite today's drama, this is unlikely to be a game-changing moment."
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