Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 January 2020

Britain Decides: ‘Tories in pole position’ but ‘there’s no guarantee’ says UK polling guru

British elections expert Sir John Curtice predicts UK will be heading for another hung parliament if Boris Johnson falls behind in the polls

Latest polls put the UK's ruling Conservative Party ahead in the run up to the December 12 election. Getty Images
Latest polls put the UK's ruling Conservative Party ahead in the run up to the December 12 election. Getty Images

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are on course to win in the upcoming election but the country will face a hung parliament if they slip in the polls, one of Britain’s top election experts has warned.

Political scientist Sir John Curtice told The National that on the basis of recent polling, which had given Mr Johnson’s Conservatives a lead of 12 percentage points, the centre right party should be on course for a majority.

However, the elections guru warned if Conservatives slipped to a seven point lead, as an earlier ICM poll published on Monday had indicated, then the country could be headed for legislative deadlock, with no party holding an outright majority in a hung parliament.

“He has to get worried if the polling starts to get down to about seven points or less, which was where it was for much of the summer,” Mr Curtice explained.

“At the moment the Tories are in the right place. But we are not so far north of where life potentially starts to get difficult."

It is just over a week since the British parliament voted to back Mr Johnson’s calls for a snap election.

MPs, who overwhelmingly voted to back the national poll, hope that the election will end the country’s Brexit deadlock.

Mr Johnson, who entered 10 Downing Street in July this year, has faced a succession of defeats in the UK parliament while trying to secure Britain’s exit from the European Union.

He has faced the same uphill battle as his predecessor Theresa May, who also struggled to pass her deal through parliament after failing to secure a majority in elections in 2017.

The prime minister is appealing for the British public to back him so he can return to parliament with enough votes to deliver Brexit.

At the same time his principal opposition party, Labour, has said it will renegotiate Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal and then put it to a countrywide referendum.

However, Mr Curtice has warned that if the Conservatives lose their lead in the polls, Mr Johnson has to worry about the possibility of as many as 100 MPs emerging from Britain’s smaller parties including the centre-left Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party and the Green Party.

The reason for the unusual voting projections in this upcoming election is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the deeply divisive issue of Brexit which cuts across traditional regional and party lines.

“The electorate is not volatile about Brexit. Its views about Brexit are very stable,” Mr Curtice explained.

“But pretty much every voter is going to have the choice of at least two parties to choose between to choose how they are going to express their views about Brexit and that creates plenty of scope for volatility as we saw during the European Parliamentary elections in June,” he added.

On Thursday the smaller parties, the Liberal Democrats, Greens and Plaid Cymru, formed a Remainer pact in a bid to launch an anti-Brexit battle against Mr Johnson.

It means they will not run candidates against each other in 60 seats.

The latest polls on Tuesday indicated the Conservatives would win 38 per cent of the vote in an election with Labour on 26 per cent.

However, just a day earlier an ICM poll narrowed the gap putting Labour on 31 per cent.

The same survey of 2,047 people put the pro-European Union Liberal Democrats on 15 per cent while the Brexit Party, led by arch Brexiteer Nigel Farage, gained nine per cent.

ICM said the survey showed the two main parties losing a similar proportion of voters over Brexit.

It said 11 per cent of those who voted Conservative at the last election in 2017 were now planning to vote for the Brexit Party, while 12 per cent of those who backed Labour in 2017 intended to vote for the Liberal Democrats.

More than two-thirds of those who voted to Remain in the Brexit referendum in 2016 and for the Conservatives in 2017 intended to stick with Johnson's Conservatives according to the poll.

Updated: November 7, 2019 05:11 PM