Why a Tory majority is so unlikely

John Rentoul

frontiers Why a Tory majority is so unlikelyHere, again, is the terrific Chart of the Year produced by Electoral Calculus for Matthew Holehouse of the Telegraph. I posted it a few weeks ago, but I am reproducing it with the correct credits and with a new, improved commentary.

It packs more information into a few square inches – intelligibly, if you are familiar with the concepts, but even then you have to stare at it for about a week – than anything I’ve seen recently.

Each line shows the path of three-party support in the two years before the last seven elections.

The start of the line is what the opinion polls suggested two years before the election; the mid-point is one year before; and the blob with the date is the election result. All plotted on a three-party map, with the zones showing where the result produces a majority for each party, and the hung parliament territory in the middle, in which the line has landed only once, in 2010.

The simple message is that it shows that the Conservatives have further to go than ever before to win a majority in 2015.

This insight emerges by comparing the blue lines (when the Conservatives were in government) with the red lines (when Labour was in government). All the blue lines move in the Conservatives’ favour, whereas the red lines move, less consistently, in a Labour or Lib Dem direction. This supports the “mid-term protest” theory, that there tends to be a swing back to the government as an election approaches.

Finally, the chart shows where the 2015 path starts: the green dot, which I have superimposed (we know the date of the 2015 election, so May 2013 is the starting point).*

If the “mid-term protest” theory holds, and the government is regarded as essentially a Tory one, the line should move to the right and downwards, towards the zone marked Conservative Majority. But, as you can see, it has got further to go than before any other election that reached that destination.

And, fun though such historical comparisons are, they do not create iron laws. The mid-term protest theory is a tendency, not a certainty. What matters above all is politics: what leaders do and say, and how people respond.

*The average of the eight polls from different companies before 7 May 2013 was Con 29.5%, Lab 37.6%, Lib Dem 10%.

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