Politicians always rubbish opinion polls, as they produce the old phrase that it is the actual vote on election day that counts, but then privately they commission endless surveys that they pour over night and day. George Gallup(pictured) has a lot to answer for after creating political surveys in the mid-thirties in America, and they quickly crossed the water to the UK. In times past, opinion polls have produced some howlers, notably every single survey, bar one very late one predicting a Harold Wilson victory in 1970, only for Ted Heath and his smiling teeth to win. More recently, exit polls on polling day itself in 1992 showing a hung parliament were rubbished when the actual returns produced a comfortable (well, it seemed at the time anyway) majority for John Major.
I have to say that these days opinion polls are pretty much on the money, and to some extent take the fun out of elections, except in countries like the UK, where you have a “first past the post”
constituency system, where individual seats can throw up surprises. But over most of Europe, like here in Spain, with proportional representation using a list system of candidates, you know already that it will take something amazing for anybody to get an overall majority in this year’s Spanish general election, helped by the intervention of Podemos. The polls got it spot on in the recent Greek vote, and even though predicting seats for May’s UK election is difficult, a trend is appearing that must be sending shivers down the back of Labour leader Ed Miliband!
Surveys are beginning to show that as the election date looms, people’s minds are beginning to focus that much more, and the Tories seem to be the beneficiaries. Two polls in the last week put them ahead of Labour, and both also suggest that support for UKIP is falling, as well as for the Lib Dems. Yes, it is the vote on Thursday May 7th that counts, but Miliband has another major worry and that’s Scotland. Not just the fact that the SNP can could take away seats from Labour, but an SNP/Labour battle might actual give the Tories an extra seat or two north of the border (because of “splitting” the vote), where at the moment David Cameron’s party just have a pathetic single representative.
The Tories are also quietly confident of picking up seats from the Lib Dems in southern England, and that’s true to some extent for Labour as well in the north. There’s all to play for with less than 10 weeks of campaigning left, but you get a little bit concerned for Miliband when his party makes the “exciting”
announcement that Lord John Prescott is making a return to front-line politics to advise him on climate-change. Perhaps the pollsters have told him that a bit of verve is required for a Labour campaign that so far is lacking any kind of verve and has a losing feel about it.