A Survation opinion poll gives the Conservatives a 6-point lead today, the lowest since early October – so does this mean the election race is becoming closer?
Survation puts the Tories on 35 per cent and Labour on 29 per cent, a result that could give Boris Johnson a majority of just 18 seats, according to the model used by the Electoral Calculus website.
Given how many seats can change hands if there are small shifts in national shares of the vote, a projected majority of 18 is hardly secure – leaving alone the dramatic shifts in opinion that happened during the election campaign last time.
The Survation poll alone is not evidence that the gap between Conservatives and Labour is closing. In fact an ICM poll published last night was carried out more recently (8-11 November; Survation was 6-8 November), and showed a Tory lead of 8 points, up one. And another poll, by YouGov, published today, showed a 14-point Tory lead.
But polling averages suggest that both parties are gaining support, and that Labour is gaining faster since parliament voted for an early election at the end of last month. The average Tory lead has fallen from 13 points then to about 9 points now.
That still suggests a Tory majority of 92 seats, which only goes to show how sensitive seats estimates are: a 6-point Tory lead translates into an 18-seat majority; a 9-point lead translates into something close to a landslide majority of 100.
Given the uncertainties about opinion polls, the safest conclusions for the moment are that the Conservatives and Labour are both gaining ground, at the expense of both the Liberal Democrats and the Brexit Party, and that Jeremy Corbyn is closing the gap on Johnson by a modest but significant amount.
The obvious question after yesterday, though, is whether Nigel Farage’s “unilateral pact” will make a difference, by standing down Brexit Party candidates in Tory-held seats. Equally, Remainers want to know whether the alliance between the Lib Dems, Greens and Plaid Cymru is likely to be effective in denying seats to the Tories.
In both cases, the “mechanical” answer is no. As long as the Tories are likely to be gaining seats compared with 2017, the Brexit Party standing down in seats they already hold is not going to change anything. And in most places the Greens and Plaid Cymru have too few votes to affect the outcome.
Psychologically, though, both pacts could make a difference, in undermining support for the Brexit Party where they do stand, and in boosting the morale of the Remain parties.