Jeremy Corbyn’s demand that Theresa May resign as Prime Minister, for the supposed offence of presiding over a decline in police numbers, was bizarre for several reasons – primarily that it came just 72 hours before the public has the opportunity to decide, for itself, whether or not the Tory leader should be returned to Downing Street.
In fairness, Corbyn subsequently amended his words, with Labour spokesmen insisting that he was referring to Thursday’s General Election and simply calling on the electorate to remove May.
On that front, the Islington MP has reason to be more optimistic than even he could have imagined, following a sharp tightening in the polls. However, the chance of him replacing May in Number 10 remains very slim. Despite Labour’s resurgence, betting markets still reflect a nearly 80 per cent chance of a Conservative majority, come Friday morning.
Different polls, however, are predicting wildly different results. An ICM survey yesterday showed a double-digit Tory lead, while YouGov – which has, famously, pointed to a hung parliament – reported a relatively narrow four per cent gap between the two main parties.
Two crucial but complex factors are obscuring the picture: the level of turnout on Thursday, and the behaviour of swing voters in 100 or so marginal constituencies.
The latter is extremely difficult to judge, given a paucity of data, and the former remains contentious. Pollsters have various ways of adjusting for the fact that the people they survey often fail to turn up and vote – but how accurate are their adjustments?
Professors at Southampton University have crunched the numbers and shown that applying a strong weight to this variable results in the Conservative lead doubling from an average of five points, to 10 points (taken from 11 polling companies).
Thus, the size of May’s majority is particularly uncertain, prompting some furrowing of brows at Tory Central Office. For this, the PM has only herself to blame, having spearheaded an exceptionally insipid and uninspiring campaign during which she has appeared evasive, unengaging, and tediously repetitive. Her approval rating lead against Corbyn has plummeted, and is now lower than David Cameron’s lead over Ed Miliband two years ago.
May called this election with the intention of cementing her position as the undisputed leader of the Conservative party and the government for the next five years. With 48 hours to go, she remains a fair distance away from achieving her goals.