- YouGov produced a forecast suggesting the UK is heading for a hung Parliament. All of the major polls have suggested that whilst the Conservatives are still the most popular party, the polls have significantly narrowed over the last six weeks. However, YouGov went out on a limb to suggest that the Conservatives could actually lose seats. Experienced pollster Deborah Mattinson described the decision to publish the projection as “brave”.
- The BBC leaders’ debate took place on Wednesday. There was no clear winner in a debate that was often chaotic and characterised by candidates talking over one another. The biggest story of the night was Theresa May refusing to attend, sending Home Secretary Amber Rudd in her place. Her absence was highlighted by the fact that Jeremy Corbyn did show up. She received unanimous criticism from the opposition parties, but this may have been the least worst option for May, who avoided being attacked from six directions for 90 minutes on live television.
- Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn both received a grilling from Jeremy Paxman on Monday night. Arguably the main talking point of the night was not the performance of the two leaders, but that of Paxman, who was criticised for overplaying his role and interrupting answers without giving the leaders sufficient time to respond. Corbyn in particular managed to use this to his advantage, seeming to win the audience over with his relaxed sense of humour. However, the debates still attracted 5.6 million fewer viewers than Britain’s Got Talent, which was on at the same time.
- The SNP launched their manifesto this week. You can read our write up of the SNP’s electoral challenge here. The SNP seem to be distancing themselves from their earlier calls for another independence referendum. The word independence was only mentioned once in Nicola Sturgeon’s speech.
- Tim Farron was the interviewed by Andrew Neil. In the last of the leaders’ interviews, Tim Farron and Andrew Neil spent much of the interview talking over each other, as Farron frequently answered his own questions and Andrew Neil grew even more impatient than usual.
- The Conservative candidate for South Thanet, Craig Mackinlay, has been charged over his 2015 election expenses. This was a close race between Mackinlay and then UKIP leader Nigel Farage in 2015, with Mackinlay winning by a margin of just under 3,000 votes. Theresa May has said the allegations are “unfounded”.
- Former Chancellor George Osborne has been scathing of the Conservative manifesto, claiming it had been “badly thought through”. Osborne is known to have badly fallen out with Theresa May after she became Prime Minister and sacked him last July.
Polling has been generating a huge amount of discussion, excitement and anxiety in equal measure this week. All of the major polls suggest that Labour have now closed the gap significantly. None more so than YouGov, whose poll published in The Times this week said the Conservatives were only 3% ahead of the Conservatives. To put this into context, days before the election was called YouGov stated that the Conservatives were ahead by 21%. Should we trust these polls? Undoubtedly the record of the polling companies in every major vote in the last 7 years has been questionable. These polls may well be further evidence that contemporary polling is too complex an artform to give an accurate picture of public opinion. Nonetheless it is clear that this has been a week where Labour has wrestled the momentum from the Conservatives, leaving the election much closer than most commentators had expected.
The week ahead
- A Question Time special is taking place tonight, in which May and Corbyn will take individual questions from a TV audience.
- Tim Farron and Nicola Sturgeon will appear in a similar Question Time special on Sunday night.
- Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Ed Balls, Sayeeda Warsi and Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood will all feature on Peston on Sunday.
- Newsbeat will host the final TV debate next Tuesday evening.
- The election polls will be open from 7am-10pm on Thursday.
The long and short of it
When the election began the question was how much will the Conservatives win by. Now many are asking whether Theresa May can even retain a majority. YouGov’s seismic seat forecast, followed by a number of other polls, suggest the race is closer than ever.
In time we may come to view this as the week hysteria got the better of us. Underlying indicators suggest Theresa May should still win a majority. That will not necessarily represent a real win however for Theresa May. To achieve anything less than a 50 seat majority would be regarded as a failure by most in her party, bearing in mind the election began with the Conservatives at least 20 points ahead in most polls, facing one of the most unpopular opposition leaders in post war history at the time.
A majority of less than 50 seats would also lead to potential questions over the position of both leaders. Labour moderates will argue that even if Corbyn does better than first expected, anything less than a win is a failure, whilst his supporters will argue progress is being made in what is at least a five year project. Regicide and/or matricide has historically been a favoured pastime of the Conservative Party, even if it doesn’t give May the boot straight away.
That said, there is still six more days of campaigning. The story is far from complete.