Are we heading for a Labour landslide?

Anyone watching the parliamentary and wider media debate this week about the government’s proposed legislation to send migrants to Rwanda, will have been struck by one overriding theme; the government and the Prime Minister are desperate for the legislation to be passed quickly because they think it will arrest the continual decline in public support for the Conservatives as the election approaches.

In other words, the government needs a game changer to avoid what the polls are consistently suggesting will be a decisive Labour victory at this year’s general election.

Indeed, at the beginning of the week, polling dominated the political headlines with the publication of a YouGov poll which focussed the minds of politicians from all parties by suggesting that, as things stand, Labour looks like winning a majority of 120 seats at the upcoming election, with the Tories facing the biggest loss inflicted on any governing party since 1906.

The poll suggests a result reminiscent of the 1997 Labour landslide with Labour winning 385 seats, including all of the ‘Red Wall’ constituencies which fell to the Conservatives in 2019, the Conservatives being reduced to 196 seats and the Liberal Democrats bouncing back to 48 seats, resembling their 2010 performance. The model also suggests that SNP representation at Westminster would be reduced to 25 seats, meaning that the Liberal Democrats would once again be the third force in the House of Commons.

The prediction comes from analysis of more than 14,000 interviews conducted by YouGov in December and January, using what is known as Multilevel Regression and Post-stratification (MRP), a technique which uses large national samples to estimate public opinion at a local level. MRP analysis is different from traditional polls because it includes large sample sizes and because it predicts the outcome and distribution of constituency seats rather than vote shares at a national level.

Nothing focusses the mind of a sitting MP, or a prospective local candidate, like thumbing through an MRP prediction to discover their potential job prospects in a year’s time, so this poll received significant amounts of media attention.

While this and all other polls currently make grim reading for Conservatives, there are some reasons for them to believe/hope (delete as required!) that the scale of defeat may not be of the order currently anticipated.

Firstly, it is worth pointing out that analysis published this week suggests that, as a result of recent boundary changes, Labour needs a swing of 12.7% just to have a small majority, let alone a landslide of 1997 proportions. In addition, history tells us that the polls are likely to tighten before the election, even if the scale of that tightening is unlikely to save the Conservatives as things stand. We then need to bear in mind that around one in six voters tell pollsters that they are still undecided about who to vote for, a higher proportion for those who voted Conservative in 2019. Throw in uncertainty about the extent of tactical voting and how many seats Labour can win in Scotland, and you can see why some caution over predicting landslides this far out is probably wise.

One thing that you can be pretty sure about though; this poll makes an early election less and less likely. If the polls continue to show Conservative losses on this scale, it is likely that a Conservative PM will not be in any rush to go the country.


Written by Mark Diffley

by haleybarnes