The Conservatives won 331 seats in May 2015, giving them a parliamentary majority of five. Prime Minister David Cameron stepped down after being unable to prevent the UK from voting to leave the EU in June 2016 and Theresa May took over. In April 2017, she called a snap election for 8th June in a move that many took as an attempt to strengthen her position ahead of Brexit negotiations. However, after being criticised for refusing to appear in head-to-head debates with other leaders, promising a free vote on the fox hunting ban and for suggesting and then backtracking on what became known as the Dementia Tax, analysts have suggested the election may not be as straightforward for the PM as expected.
Labour trailed the Tories by 99 seats in 2015, leading to Ed Miliband’s resignation as leader. Jeremy Corbyn was sworn in thanks to a surge of support from grassroots Labour members, but clashed with a host of shadow Cabinet ministers, leading to a second leadership election last year, which he won convincingly. Despite newspaper scrutiny over his role in discussions with the IRA in the 1980s and a couple of car crash interviews in which Corbyn and shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott struggled to recall key figures, polls show public support for the party’s policies on the NHS, free school meals and raising the top level of tax.
YouGov launched an investigation into the errors made in its final poll before the 2015 election results were announced, which showed the two main parties tying on 34 percent. In reality, the Conservatives took 37.7 percent of the vote, 6.5 percent ahead of Labour on 31.2. It concluded that, among many factors, the surveys over-represented young people who tend to lean to the political left, but do not vote in large numbers, and under-represented traditionally right-wing elderly people who are more likely to visit the Polling Station.
Bookmakers and pollsters alike not only failed to predict a Tory majority in 2015, but were also caught out by the Brexit vote a year later and then again during the 2016 US election, when Hillary Clinton was a strong favourite to become president, only to be beaten by Donald Trump.
It is fair to say that opinion polls should be taken with a pinch of salt after recent election betting failures, but that is where the trouble lies for bettors; there are now polls that suggest both a healthy Tory majority and a hung parliament. YouGov was particularly scorned after the 2015 prediction disaster and pledged to improve its methodology as a result, which is why it is curious that it would promote a completely new type of poll with a result that went against the conventional wisdom of the rest of the market so close to the election.
Theresa May may well have expected to trounce Labour before campaigning began, but the election period has not run smoothly. An embarrassing climbdown over the Dementia Tax, which angered many among the Tories’ core elderly support, and a manifesto light on costings have made the party look anything but “strong and stable”.
Some commentators have pointed out that the intensity of the election trail has allowed Labour to put across a message to the public that it struggled to promote before. The in-fighting seems to have been put to one side, if only in the run up to 8th June, and polls suggest they are seen as a more credible political force than they were a month or so ago. The challenge for Corbyn is to get more young people out to the Polling Stations than usual, as that is where his party will pick up vital votes.
In reality, it is still likely to be the Conservatives alone who return to the government benches when the House of Commons reconvenes after the election, but it will be fascinating to see how Corbyn’s party performs, given how Labour was written off earlier in the year. They claimed 232 seats in 2015, making 888Sport’s 6/4 on them winning between 200 and 249 seats this time around seem very tempting.
- Sports.net’s Top Tip: Labour to win between 200 and 249 seats at 6/4
Please note that odds may fluctuate.