Lord Ashcroft polls have released a post-election poll of voters’ intentions for the next General Election. Based on his results, Flavible Politics has produced a map of likely results by constituency – and this shows Waverley as a LibDem gain:
Not only SW Surrey either, but also Guildford, Woking, Mole Valley, Esher & Walton and Reigate in Surrey (and a very narrow loss in Elmbridge), and eighty more gains across the country.
Is this even credible? At first glance, clearly not – but let’s look a little deeper.
In the local elections for Waverley borough three weeks ago, the Conservatives took only 38.7% of the total votes cast, against 27.3% for the LibDems, 20.5% for the Farnham Residents Association, 6.8% for Labour and 4.1% for Greens. But there was in effect a “progressive alliance” between the LibDems, Greens and Labour, taking the total progressive vote to 39.2% – just a fraction behind the Conservatives.
Then, in last week’s EU elections, Liberal Democrats topped the poll on 35%, followed by Brexit on 28.8%, Greens on 14.5%, and Conservatives on only 11.5%! Conventional wisdom is that the EU results were distorted by the dominance of Brexit, but – “it ain’t necessarily so”.
Lord Ashcroft’s poll, on which the projection is based, did not only ask about future voting intention, it also enquired about, and analysed, past voting history, in the last general election, as well as last week for the EU.
His analysis showed that while yes, some of those who have switched from Labour or Conservatives to LD, or to Farrage’s Brexit, would return to their original party for a general election – not all of them would. Hence, Conservatives would not recover to their earlier level of support – and Liberal Democrats would retain a substantial share of their newfound (or newly returned) supporters.
If this projection turns out to be sound, that would create an extraordinary situation where nationally, just 4% would separate four parties:
Of course, it’s not that simple: what voters tell pollsters they will do, and what they actually do, are often very different – especially when the next general election could be a long way off. Circumstances will change, new events will get in the way. But what is surely true, and will remain so, is that we are in a period of remarkable fluidity in British politics, where extraordinary developments have come to seem almost commonplace: who would have predicted just three months ago, that we would end up with 16 MEPs?
The idea of Liberal Democrats winning SW Surrey in the next general election may well be just too fanciful to be taken seriously – but the possibility of getting at least much closer is surely not?
So thank you, Lord Ashcroft.