Monday 22nd May
A big if, of course. They have often got the actual result wrong, but they generally get the direction of travel correct. And they are all we have, to give us any indication of how things are actually going. Now, whether they actually affect anyone’s vote is debateable. There are some commentators who think that there are some people who like to back a winner, or more likely, think that if most people favour one party then they must be right. There is also the possibility that if people think the race is tightening it stiffens their resolve to actually go out and vote, rather than if your party is so far ahead they cannot possibly lose so don’t need your vote. Who knows? It may also be possible that most people take no notice at all of opinion polls and have made up their mind ages ago, despite what they tell the pollsters.
After the last election, there was a belief among pollsters that they had underestimated the Tory vote, and most of them changed their sampling methods to give more weight to either certain demographic groups or those who had definitely voted last time (though how can they ever be sure that people will repeat their behavior?). Anyway, ever since the 2015 election the Tories have been well ahead in the polls, and Labour who got 31% under Ed Milliband have languished at around 30%. When Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of Labour, I, like many others thought he would be a disaster. And I wasn’t disappointed. Labour’s polling figures went from bad to worse, but more importantly the Press had a field day as Jeremy obviously struggled with the role, what with shadow cabinet resignations or sulks from established party figures, and then came the Brexit vote. Jeremy, I will agree, did not appear to campaign that strongly for Remain. But again, here, the Media thought that Boris and Nigel were the real story and tended to neglect Labour’s message anyway. In retrospect Jeremy’s slightly jaundiced view of Europe, but on balance thinking that membership of the Single Market was more important, just about reflected (if anyone could) the Nation’s mood. Of course – he was slated, (strangely Cameron and Osborne who ran the most negative of doom-ridden campaigns were hardly criticized – if being strong for Remain had so abjectly failed, why was a more balanced view so derided?) and he suffered a vote of no confidence by Labour M.P.s. Then he was challenged and won again handsomely. So, resignedly, it looked like we were stuck with him.
When Mother Theresa (she hasn’t quite been canonized yet) called the Election she was 22 points ahead in the polls. Her fervent and “recent” conversion to the Brexit cause and her fighting talk about the negotiations went down well with Leavers, and all the Remain Tories were suddenly jingo-istic Brexiteers too. UKIP was visibly falling apart under the nutty Nuttall and without Nigel they looked dead in the water. Most of their voters became prospective Tory supporters – and the election looked the surest of sure things.
But, as Jeremy and Labour’s policies have received Media attention, the polls have begun to shift – and Labour are suddenly on 34 to 35%, much higher than mild Milliband achieved. It seems that people actually like the ideas of fairness and more help for people; whether this will be enough to overcome the idea of Jeremy as useless, time will tell. The press, of course, will vilify almost any Labour leader, and Jeremy will now receive the full broadsides from the Mail, Telegraph, Express, Sun and the Times. It may well be that this weekend’s polling was the high-water mark for Labour and the Tories will still get that huge majority. But you never know. The disastrous ideas in the Tory Manifesto, with attacks on the old and the very young (school dinners) may be talked about for a few more days. And there is still the NHS to come. Whatever happens it has suddenly become an interesting election, if the Opinion polls are to be believed….