When I wrote an article last weekend to the effect that the by-election result in the Shropshire ward of Horsehay & Lightmoor showed that, in spite of continuing to make confident predictions based on polling, ‘pollsters’ have no idea what’s really happening, I received a massive amount of stick on social media from right-wing Labour ‘moderates’.
You’d almost think they wanted Labour to do badly at the ballot box so they could bring down Jeremy Corbyn.
Following poor (but far from surprising) results in a couple of parliamentary by-elections that Labour were never going to win anyway, the Labour right-wingers in Parliament and their cheerleaders were falling over themselves to make dire predictions and to pontificate about the supposed threat to Labour in its heartlands from UKIP and the supposed abandonment of Labour by urban voters.
But on the same night as the Tories held Sleaford in Tory/UKIP-dominated Lincolnshire, a 24.3% swing to Labour in equally Tory-dominated Shropshire, which currently has no non-Tory MPs at all, showed that pollsters’ predictions are essentially guesswork. After all, Zac Goldsmith was predicted to win a large majority in Richmond Park just before he lost it to the LibDem candidate. UKIP’s fall in vote share also suggested that they are slipping back rather than a threat to Labour.
But the social media onslaught was among the more extreme I’ve experienced. Accusations of wishful thinking and wilful ignorance were among the kinder responses from ‘Saving Labour’ and Progress types.
But last night’s by-election results have made recent polling predictions look wildly off-target – to the point where even an election analyst admitted to astonishment:
That swing favoured the LibDems, but in Blackburn, the supposed ‘heartland’ threat to Labour from UKIP was in fact a major UKIP collapse while Labour’s share rose sharply:
Nuttall’s claim to working class appeal was always clearly nonsense, but it suited some quarters to treat it seriously. But this puts his – and their – idiocy in bold type.
But it’s not just UKIP. The Tories are supposedly flying high in the polls and Theresa May’s approval ratings are supposed to be soaring in spite of her hideous demeanour and constant PMQs defeats – an idea that goes against every instinct and intuition.
But tonight was a catastrophe for the Tories and for Mrs May:
Of the seats they held up to the by-election and were trying to retain, the Tories lost all. Every single one.
While Labour’s share went up in theirs, to the detriment of ‘dangerous’ UKIP. Of course there’s a battle ahead and a lot of work to be done, but predictions of disaster unless we copy UKIP etc are ‘moderate’ wish-fulfilment.
So much for polling and pollsters. I love to say ‘I told you so’.
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