finance

Will Boris Johnson’s lead narrow?


With a little over two weeks to polling day the Conservatives still enjoy a commanding lead over Labour. According to the FT’s general election poll tracker, the Tories are 13 points ahead of Labour, enough to be returned with a comfortable working majority.

This election is clearly going well for Boris Johnson. He is running a tightly focused and disciplined campaign with the central message that he will “get Brexit done”. He has mixed this with a more restrained approach on public spending than had been anticipated. So far there have been few gaffes (with the exception of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s). 

Still, it’s possible that this poll lead will significantly narrow as election day approaches. Remember that if the Tory lead comes down to about 7 points, or if Labour goes well above 30 per cent, a hung parliament starts to look inevitable, according to many pollsters.

Here are a few thoughts on things that might make the Conservative high command feel nervous.

First, there are indications of a huge surge in the number of young people registering to vote in recent weeks, as this story shows. As experience suggests, many of them are likely to vote Labour..

Second, the prospect of a Johnson victory may create last-minute electoral effects. If Remain voters take the view that Mr Johnson is heading for a strong majority, they may feel more comfortable voting Labour. As Rachel Sylvester puts it in The Times today: “The less likely it seems that Mr Corbyn will get a parliamentary majority, the safer pro-Europeans will feel about voting tactically against the Conservatives.”

Third, the Liberal Democrats’ poor performance under Jo Swinson creates dangers for the Tories. The Lib Dem campaign has clearly stalled, as Laura Hughes writes in the FT. This could see Lib Dem voters drifting towards Labour, perceiving it to be the only hope for a second referendum. That would be bad news for the Conservatives who, electorally, need the Lib Dems to do better and split the Remain vote.

Fourth, it’s not clear how the Conservatives can maintain momentum over the final weeks of the campaign. Their central message that they will “get Brexit done” risks sounding monotonous. It is not clear what other message can propel them forward.

Tomorrow night’s MRP poll by YouGov, looking at the state of play on a constituency-by-constituency basis, will be the most significant survey so far. It came the closest of any poll to predicting the result of the 2017 election and will give us the best indication of what Mr Johnson needs to do in the final two weeks.

Further reading

Can the Brexit party beat Labour in Hartlepool stronghold?
For Nigel Farage and his Brexit party, the town of Hartlepool in the north-east of England offers a rare and tantalising treat: a taste of political power. (Tobias Buck, FT)

Talk of a Tory majority could spell trouble for Boris Johnson (James Forsyth, The Spectator)

Economists and academics back Labour spending plans (FT)

Conservative plan for the NHS — does it add up? (Paula Lorgelly, PMP)

Keep up with what’s happening in the EU by signing up to our Brussels Briefing newsletter 

Hard numbers

End of austerity as main parties turn on spending taps Read more

UK election collections

Battleground dispatches
FT reporters travel around the country to hear from voters ahead of the December 12 poll
Pledges and pacts



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