Beware of chasing the polls – I remember 2015

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Recent polls showing Conservative support collapsing have sent pundits and politicians into a spin.

After a very unstable manifesto launch, people are seriously wondering whether Jeremy Corbyn can beat Theresa May to Number 10.

Polls and 2015

As a newspaper reporter covering the 2015 General Election, I followed the polls obsessively. I probably thought that if I kept looking at spreadsheets I’d magically become Nate Silver.

The newsroom genuinely thought Ed Miliband might somehow make it over the line, bacon sandwiches, stone carvings and all. If you look at coverage from the time we were hardly the only ones.

The result was a front page splash with my byline and the headline “Too close to call”. While I can absolutely see why the editors went for that, I still occasionally have sleepless nights about it. It was just plain wrong.

As we now know it was not too close to call. The polls were inaccurate. Reporters, like me, who thought we had a real battle on our hands were mistaken. David Cameron got the first Tory majority in decades fairly comfortably. A Milivictory had never really been on the cards.

May still likely victor

Up until this point, the 2017 election campaign has been stupendously dull. I understand why journalists must be desperate for there to be the potential for an upset, or a shift in the narrative. I may regret this, but my experience at the last election tells me that is just not the case.

The Conservatives have without doubt muddled and miscommunicated their new social care policy. Members of the public are genuinely confused and concerned by what is in their manifesto. Theresa May’s long built reputation as a safe pair of hands is on the verge of being destroyed. All of that is a huge and genuine story.

However, we should all remember 2015 and be very wary indeed of chasing polls which often overcook the Labour vote.

With Corbyn as leader it still remains highly unlikely that we will wake to anything other than a very comfortable Conservative majority on 9 June.

 

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My first book "Not Buying It", looking at post-truth in media and politics, is being published by Unbound

If you enjoy this blog please pledge here, to help make it happen and order your copy.

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