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  June 6, 2017

UK Election Polls: Can Corbyn Win?


Opinion polls for the June 8 UK General Election indicate an increasingly tight race between Labour and Conservatives, but most still give Conservative Theresa May an advantage, despite May's weaknesses as Prime Minister, says Real Media's Thomas Barlow
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biography

Thomas Barlow is a journalist and organiser, and the senior editor of the UK-based Real Media. Thomas was formerly a festival organiser and music promoter. He has been a life long activist, particularly dedicated to environmentalism and anti-fascism.


transcript

SHARMINI PERIES: It's the Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.

The election polling in the UK has been a nail biter. The variations in polling leading up to the June 8th General Election has even the bookies busier than ever. Terror attacks in Manchester and London causing certain nuance ebbs and flows in the polls. What are the most reliable polls? What are they're saying?

Does the leader of the Labor party of UK, Jeremy Corbyn, have a serious chance at the prime ministership? That is the questions we are going to be taking up with our guest Thomas Barlow of Real Media. Thomas, good to have you with us.

THOMAS BARLOW: Thanks for having me.

SHARMINI PERIES: So Thomas lets first take up, how varied are the poll results? And why are they so varied? And, which are the most reliable polls?

THOMAS BARLOW: Okay, Well, yeah, there's a few questions to answer there. First of for the American viewers and actually for most viewers. Probably going to be unaware that the polling is being very buried from the get go. Now it's always given the Conservatives under Theresa May the current Prime Minister a strong lead. But even today and the past couple of days the polls varied between a 12% lead for Theresa May to 1%, which is a massive difference. This is a difference between a landslide victory with an enormous majority in government and maybe a hung parliament. Especially 1% is within the margin of error, which means that it could even become a Labor victory.

This is really important to understand what's going on here especially as we are within a couple of days now of the actual election itself. Now the lead has been changing fast partially because the press have had to abide by certain impartiality rules--not many, but that said it's given Corbyn a fairer shake. There's other things that we'll get into a bit later, the differences between the Labor performance and the Conservative performance.

Also, the variation can be explained by the fact that often a lot of the samples sizes are quite small because it's quite expensive to do polling. We don't have a national system like the US where we vote region by region, so it's very difficult to get a very accurate polling data.

What we've seen especially in the last couple of elections is there's been things like an anti-establishment mood, that has meant people have voted in ways that are unexpected. Also, what is known as the "shy Tory" phenomenon, which is people saying they're going to vote Labor or progressive, but actually voting Conservative when they get in the booth. Polling companies have been trying to make allowances for this but what we now have to do is look at which ones are the best, and which ones really give us an accurate picture, or a nearly accurate picture, of what's going on.

SHARMINI PERIES: Which are the most reliable ones, Thomas? What are you looking at?

THOMAS BARLOW: I've picked out three key ones that I think are the best and most would agree are the best. First off we've got the YouGov Poll. YouGov Poll uses around about 5,000 people as a sample. It's quite a big sample size, and they do it daily. They do it based on region by region so they have polling in region. And as it has been proven in the past few elections and referendums online polling has turned out to be a lot more accurate than phone polling. Maybe there is something about speaking to someone on the phone that makes you say that you're going to do one thing, but when you're actually going to do another.

Online polling has proven to be best, and YouGov give the Conservative a 4% lead at this point. That would equal 308 seats to the Conservatives, which would be a loss of seats and 268 to the Labor. Now to have an overall majority the Conservatives need 386. They'll have lost seats and not have an overall majority in Parliament if YouGov are correct.

For me, I personally prefer Britain Elects and Lord Ashcroft, who work on the basis of using a poll of polls--using historical trends and regional trends and not just on recent polling data. They say that the most likely outcome--around about 35% chance of outcome--is that the Conservatives will get 355 seats, increasing their majority, and Labor getting 215 seats. Now, this would still be an astonishing achievement for a Labor party that was around a month ago at polling less than 25%, 24%. They'll probably increase their vote share. They'll have increased a number of people voting for them, but because of our regional system, they'll have lost seats. Anything over 200 would be a success for a Labor party that's been so attacked uniformly by the press and the establishment.

Finally, we've got the Bookies. The Bookies, they put their money where their mouth is. These are people to really listen to in my opinion. We have--if I just check my stats here-- Labor getting the most seats 6/1 odds, which is not great. It's down from 20/1 odds, only a couple of weeks ago. They've shorten the odds very quickly, and the landscape is changing very rapidly. A hung Parliament, 3/1, but they still have majority Tories 1/4 favorites, massive favorites there still for a Tory majority. What's interesting as well is that the Bookies will say 6/1 for Labor getting the most seats but 12/1 for them forming a government, which means they think that other parties would have struck the Labor party actually forming a minority government with coalition partners. So that's what the Bookies say, that's what my three favorite polls say. We can discuss why this has come about, why these change in polls have occurred, next if you like.

SHARMINI PERIES: Sure, address that. First of all, what are the changing nature of the polls? And do you expect that things will change dramatically in the next two days?

THOMAS BARLOW: Yeah, that's a really good question. First, to address what will happen in the next two days: We don't know. It's all to play for. The Conservatives are bringing out their big guns, their big arguments against Jeremy Corbyn. They've been saving these. They've coordinated with the press specific attacks that they think are going to be the most effective. Seeing as 80% of the press are owned by five billionaires, who are firmly behind the Conservative party, and even the liberal press are struggling to support Jeremy Corbyn. This is an establishment attack that will be well coordinated and could change things.

Having said that, the Labor party has grown to the largest social democratic party in Europe, even bigger than the German Social Democratic Party, and has wanted out in marginals up and down the country right now. They're moving out of the safe seats right into the marginal constituencies, and they're fighting for every vote. They're talking to people on the doorsteps. It's a big surge going on not only in those seats but also online, where people are actually targeting marginal constituencies, and trying to talk to people in Facebook groups and on pages, in forums based in those localities. As we say, it's region by region, and it's those regions that will swing such as say Bolton West or the Bellwether Nuneaton in Leicestershire that are the most important places. Most places are safe seats so it's only those 70 or 80 seats that can change hands that are the really important ones to concentrate on.

Whether people speaking to people, and speaking to people online, is going to change the day--people coordinating and working together or whether the establishment with their huge amounts of money and their enormous amounts of power are going to make the difference--that's yet to be seen in the next two days.

What we can say is that the Conservatives have blown a lead both through Labor having actually doing really, really well and Jeremy Corbyn doing really well, but also the Conservatives having a torrid time in doing absolutely abominably. I mean, usually when there are terrorism attacks, people tend to look to Conservatives and right wingers in any place around the world as a signifier of security, and their vote share tends to go up. What we've actually seen is not that. Theresa May has been seen as dangerous--and probably quite rightly--for doing deals with Turkey and doing deals with Saudi Arabia for massive amounts of weapons. For being Home Secretary for six years and Prime Minister for one and actually us suffering three terrorist attacks in three months under her watch. She's getting painted as someone who's dangerous to natural security and dangerous for the country. Alongside that, her manifesto was terrible. The Conservative manifesto seemed to penalize not only the poorest in society but also her own base, older voters who were looking to pass on their houses. She's also seen as weak, she U-turned several times, which doesn't paint her as a strong negotiator.

SHARMINI PERIES: Final point here Thomas. What significance does the voter turnout have on the election day in terms of results? If there's a big turnout, what happens?

THOMAS BARLOW: Well supposedly if there's a big turnout we see this in every country across the world, whether it's Iran or the United States, the progressives do better with a bigger turnout. The Labor party will do a lot better if more people come out and vote. That's a guarantee. [crosstalk 00:09:32]

SHARMINI PERIES: Is there a fear about turning out to the polls given the terror attacks in Manchester and London?

THOMAS BARLOW: No, there is no fear of that whatsoever. I think the American media, from what we've seen of it, has overblown the British reaction to these attacks. I remember in my lifetime when I grew up the homeland campaign by the IRA, there was many bombs regularly in Britain. This is not something we're not used to. I don't see it having any impact on the amount of people turning out to vote. People aren't afraid of those things, and I think the American media has been quite frankly, disingenuous and scaremongering if they paint British people as in any way concerned by these terror attacks in exercising their democratic rights. There's no way that that's going to stop anyone from turning up to vote.

SHARMINI PERIES: Thomas, what has the turnout been like for Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May at these election rallies?

THOMAS BARLOW: Yeah, it's been astoundingly different. Theresa May is struggling to get 12 people to turn up with placards from the local party and is trying to avoid actively at any point publicly debating on TV, or meeting any members of the public whatsoever.

Whereas, Jeremy Corbyn was in Gateshead near Newcastle last night. He turned out so many crowds that not only did they fill out thousands and thousands in the stadium that they've built, but all around the outside, thousands upon thousands of people. He's filling out football stadiums. He's turning up at rock concerts. People are turning out in such huge numbers there's never enough space for the amount of people. What's really interesting is that there's still the talk about Jeremy Corbyn being unelectable, but what he's proven during his campaign is he's anything but that, he's very popular. The Labor party is very popular, and they've got a huge amount of members and a huge amount of support amongst normal everyday people. I think that could be the difference and that's what maybe was where the polling was going wrong to begin with, which is they were taking maybe too many cues from the media and not enough from people in society. Everyday people who want a change and are very much supported in turning out for Jeremy Corbyn.

SHARMINI PERIES: Thomas there's going to be election coverage live from the Real Media that the Real News will be carrying at 5 p.m. Eastern time. Give us a sense of what that coverage will be like?

THOMAS BARLOW: We're going to have excellent independent journalists from all over the UK talking about the election, the campaign, the way it's being, making the predictions, bringing the results and giving you the chat that you're not going to hear on BBC or Rupert Murdoch's own Sky. It's going to be excellent coverage and really the only way to watch the results as they come in. So check it out on Real Media, Novara Media, Real News Network, 5 p.m. Eastern time.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Thomas, I thank you so much for joining us.

THOMAS BARLOW: My pleasure.

SHARMINI PERIES: Thank you for joining us here on the Real News Network.



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