Issues & Ideas | 5th May 2015

Separate academic forecast: Tories will win vote by 2-3 points but Miliband most likely PM

Separately from May2015, a group of academics join other forecasters in thinking both parties will around 270 seats, which won’t be enough for Cameron to keep power.

Photo: Getty


In two days 35.0 per cent of Great Britain is going to vote Tory, with 32.6 per cent voting Labour. But that result will give the Tories only two more seats than Labour, and an ‘anti-Tory’ majority will exist in the House. Ed Miliband is the most likely post-election PM.

That is the conclusion of four academics – ‘Polling Observatory’ – who have been offering election predictions on May2015 for the past two months. Before the campaign started, Observatory suggested Labour would just about win the most seats. After the first half of the campaign, they thought little had changed. Now they think the Tories have pulled ahead in the national vote, but think that will translate into a minimal Tory seat advantage.

That will leave Labour as head of the most likely post-election bloc, because the SNP and other ‘anti-Tory’ parties will collectively hold a majority of seats in the House (323). This forecast contrasts with May2015’s own forecast, which predicts a similarly small Tory seat but wouldn’t be if we were predicting so large a Tory poll win, as well as numerous other forecasts which are more favourable to the Tories.

As we enter the closing stretch of the campaign, substantial uncertainty remains.

As we enter the closing stretch of the campaign, substantial uncertainty remains over the final outcome. But Polling Observatory now estimate that Labour are on 33.1 per cent in the polls, and the Tories on 34.2 per cent (as of April 30). They predict that will rise to 35.0 per cent for the Tories on Thursday, and fall to 32.6 per cent for Labour.

This 35 per cent forecast for the Tories is 1.4 per cent higher than their forecast in mid-March. Since then, half a dozen phone polls have suggested the Tories are more than 3 points ahead, while online polls are still showing a tie. When Observatory average all pollsters – taking into house effects and methodological differences – this is their forecast.

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This slight shift in the balance of polling is reflected in Observatory’s latest seat estimates. The Conservatives’ median estimate rises by six seats, Labour falls by six seats, and the Liberal Democrats fall by four.

This puts the Tory seat lead at just two. However, as the confidence intervals attached to our estimates reveal, this projected lead is highly uncertain – it’s a true coin toss – with a 53 per cent chance that the Conservatives will have more seats than Labour.

A majority for either is, as we’ve known for a long time, extremely unlikely; the Tories’ hopes are less than 0.2%. While the ‘SNP surge’ in Scotland looks ever more likely. We now predict they will win 54 of Scotland’s 59 seats.

Tory — 274 (251-305)
Labour — 272 (244-295)
SNP — 54 (46-58)
Lib Dem — 24 (18-29)
Ukip — 2 (1-4)
Others — 6
Northern Ireland — 18

The Conservatives’ paths to a governing coalition are circuitous. They cannot reach a majority with the backing of the Lib Dems (they would combine for 298 seats, 15 short of a majority, under our estimates), or with both the Lib Dems and Northern Ireland’s DUP (combined 306 seats, assuming the DUP don’t win a ninth seat), or even by adding Ukip and forming a four-way pact (308 seats total).

It would be very hard, with this seat outcome, for the Conservatives to sustain a government without some form of acquiescence from the SNP. But the back page of the SNP’s manifesto is a commitment to ‘lock the Tories out’, which makes things rather more promising for Labour.

While they cannot reach a majority with the help of the Lib Dems (combined 300 seats), they can with SNP. And, according to our numbers, they will be able to call on as many as ten minor MPs to vote with them and the SNP in a Queen’s Speech.

Our projected result suggests that, while the ballots may all have been counted by May 8, the shape of the new government may be up in the air for some time after.

Polling Observatory is Robert Ford, Will Jennings, Mark Pickup and Christopher Wlezien. Full Polling Observatory archives now available at