LONDON — Back in April, when Prime Minister Theresa May called a snap election for June 8, I called her a “tactical genius” for taking advantage of the Labour Party’s 20-point deficit in the polls.
Now, with the election just three days away, that deficit is gone. According to some polls Labour is between six and one percentage points of the Conservatives. One poll — Ipsos Mori — has raw data showing Labour might be 3 points ahead.
There have been two terror attacks during the campaign, which have made people question whether cuts to the police budget are a good idea. The economic data has been crumbling underneath May for some time. We might have full employment, but those jobs are on zero-hours contracts or in the insecure, minimum-wage gig economy.
And then there was the Conservatives’ manifesto promises to undo the triple-lock on pensions and require that dementia patients sell their houses after they die to pay for social care. Those two ideas — the government coming for your pension and your house — are two things that older Conservative voters just don’t want to hear. (And Business Insider’s sources tell us that Conservative campaign headquarters is indeed more worried than it wanted to be at this stage.)
May’s nightmare is coming true.
It’s all slipping away.
The British don’t feel safe, economically or physically.
Two new economic data points came in today that both look negative for May:
UK services PMI is trending down. Services are the vast majority of the UK economy, so this is a potentially important indicator of sentiment:
And new car purchases collapsed. “Private new car registrations fell 14.0% year-over-year in May, much worse than the 2.6% average decline over the previous twelve months,” Pantheon Macronomics analyst Samuel Tombs told his clients. Year-to-date registrations are down 4.2%:
These charts do not describe a nation that is confident about its future.
Of course, non-Conservative voters ought to keep their champagne on ice. There are two good reasons to expect May to cling on to her House of Commons majority:
First, Conservatives are historically under-represented in the polls. There is a good article by Nate Silver about this phenomenon here. In the 2015 election, the polls had the Tories ahead by only 0.6 points, on average. In the actual vote they were 5.9 points ahead.
Second, young people are less likely to vote. Young people (18-24s) tend to break heavily for Labour, but most of them don’t actually vote. In 2015, 60% of them told pollsters they would vote but on the day only 43% showed up:
And even if 60% of the youth vote came out, they are up against the elderly vote, which breaks heavily for the Conservatives. Ninety-five per cent of people over 65 are registered to vote, versus only 65% of younger voters:
Crucially, those polls which weight their data based on this historical tendency, show Tory leads of up to 12%.
So yes, there is a chance that on Friday we’ll be looking at a hung parliament with Jeremy Corbyn trying to put together a minority coalition government with the SNP. If that happens, you’ll know why: British people are not currently behaving as if they believe the economy is in good shape under the Tories, and the economic data has been signalling that for months.
And if the polls turn out to be wrong, and May gets a majority of 50 or more seats, you’ll also know why: Young people say they will vote, but old people actually vote.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Insider.
So here’s the rub. A week before election in 2015 YouGov had 60% of 18-24s saying they were certain to vote. It was 43% on election day.
— Election Data (@election_data) June 3, 2017
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