General Election 2015: Statistician Nate Silver predicts Conservatives as largest party but an "incredibly messy outcome"

 
Guy Bentley
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Silver, whose record of predictions for US elections is unparalleled, said either way, the General Election is likely to result in a "messy outcome" (Source: Getty)

The man who successfully predicted 99 state results out of 100 in the last two Presidential elections, as well as a host of House and Senate races, has forecast that the Conservatives will be the largest party after the General Election.

Nate Silver, who participated in a BBC Panorama programme, thinks the Tories will capture 283 seats, while Labour will edge up to 270. Ed Miliband's party will almost be wiped out in Scotland, with the SNP entering the Commons with 48 seats. Meanwhile, under Silver's model, the Lib Dems will take a hammering - being left with just 24 seats, down from 57.

Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), widely seen as likely partners to a Conservative minority government, win eight seats. Confounding the national polls and many of the pundits, Ukip only wins one seat - down from the two they held at the tail end of the last parliament.

But Silver was unable to give a prediction about who would form the next government saying the General Election would likely produce an "incredibly messy outcome". The key problem for parties such as Ukip is the first past the post electoral system, which prevents spread-out support nationwide to translate into seats in the Commons.

This means where a party's supporters are concentrated - such as Lib Dems in the south west - they are much more likely to hang onto their seats.

Though the Tories might be the largest party, Silver says Miliband's path to Number 10 may be easier than David Cameron's:

If these numbers held steady, you'd have the Tories as the largest party, but Labour plus the SNP are more. Even then they are not a majority.

The betting markets seem to think there would be more paths for Miliband in that case, but it's an incredibly messy outcome. There is still enormous uncertainty about who forms a government after 7 May.

Silver attempted to take into account factors such as tactical voting and popularity of local MPs - a particularly relevant factor for Lib Dems. Silver may have a stellar record in predicting US election outcomes, but when it comes to the UK his record is more sketchy.

Silver's firm, Five Thirty-Eight, forecast a disastrous result for Labour in 2010, with the party holding on to just 214 seats. On election night, it won 258 seats.

An even more extraordinary miss from Silver was his prediction the Lib Dems winning 101 seats, when they actually ended up losing five. But to be fair the US stats guru, he was only two seats off the correct Conservative result of 306.

Visit our General Election poll tracker to see how the polls changed in the build-up to election day. 

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