This is the final result of my seat by seat predictions, which I have been posting on here over the last month…
Conservative 278 (-29)
Labour 301 (12)
UKIP 5 (1)
Sinn Fein 5 (-)
SDLP 3 (-)
Independent 1 (-)
Speaker 1 (-)
• Only 94 (14.5%) out of 650 seats will change hands
• Scotland is the most volatile region of the UK with 15 out of 59 seats changing hands
• In England the South West & the North West are the most volatile regions with 13 seats changing hands in each
• The North East is the most stable regions with only 2 seats changing hands
• The Conservatives will lose 48 seats and gain 19
• Labour will lose 11 seats and gain 54
• The LibDems will lose 32 seats and gain none
• The SNP will lose no seats and gain 12
• UKIP will lose no seats and gain 5
• The seat with the biggest majority to change hands will be Llinlithgow & Falkirk – 12553, which will be won by the SNP from Labour
So what’s the election result going to be? That’s the question I am asked most often nowadays, and I am sure it’s the one my fellow political commentators also find the most difficult to answer. “Oh, it’s going to be very exciting,” we all say, laughing nervously because nobody has a clue what the real answer is.
The truth is that this is the most unpredictable election in recent memory and for one very simple reason – for the first time in British political history, we’re now in five party politics. For the first time ever it’s conceivable that the joint vote share of the two main parties might be under 60%.
The only thing we can say with certainty is that the days of the election night swingometer are well and truly behind us. There is no such thing as a national swing. National opinion polls have been rendered almost redundant. The various internet election forecasting sites have little relevance. Tip O’Neil once said that ‘all politics is local’ and boy was he right.
I have taken him at his word and taken on the mammoth task of predicting the result in each of the UK’s 650 constituencies. Clearly only an idiot or a massive political geek would undertake such a task and put his money where his mouth is. I’ll leave you to decide which I am.
Obviously I am not an expert on each seat. But there’s a lot of information out there if you look for it. Sites like PoliticalBetting.com and UKPollingReport are mines of useful statistics and opinion. Lord Ashcroft’s excellent constituency based polls also provide useful data along with other local factors I have researched. I’ve made the predictions as scientific as I can make them on the evidence I have available to me. In the end you also have to sniff the political wind and rely on your own political instinct. And that’s what I have done. It’s served me well over the last year when I got the European election results bang on and made the most accurate predictions in Cameron’s Cabinet reshuffle. I don’t expect to have got every prediction right, which will come as a relief to several MP friends from all parties who I have predicted will lose their seats. But this is an ongoing process and I fully expect to revise some of these predictions between now
Having completed the task I am so glad I undertook it, as it has confirmed several theories – one being that the Tories will pile up votes in seats where they don’t need them. This could well mean that Labour get the highest number of seats but the Tories get the most votes, by a reasonable margin.
In Scotland I just cannot see how the SNP can gain the number of seats many people are predicting. Some pundits predict with straight faces that the SNP will sweep the electoral board and end up with 30 to 40 seats. They have 6 at the moment, and try as I might I can’t get them above 18. If they do achieve more than that that it would be a political earthquake of epic proportions. They would be overturning Labour majorities of 15-20,000.
The most difficult thing to predict is how well UKIP and the Greens will do. Both could deny each of the major parties victory in many marginal seats. Labour ought to be gaining seats in North Wales, for example, but the strong UKIP vote there – where they are taking more Labour votes than Tory ones – may well mean they don’t take any at all. Indeed, in the North West of England that same phenomenon could mean the Tories picking up the odd Labour marginal.
The one prediction I am 100% confident in making is that the Liberal Democrats will lose more than half of their seats. A year ago I thought they’d end up with 30-35, back in October I revised that to 28-30. Now I have them on 24. It could get even worse, although I reckon Nick Clegg will be safe in Sheffield Hallam.
The most recent political phenomenon is the growth of the Greens. While I don’t see them winning any extra seats, it is perfectly possible for an increase in their vote to stop Labour winning in some key marginal seats. If the LibDem vote transfers to the Greens instead of Labour, Ed Miliband is in much bigger trouble than my headline prediction might suggest.
If my overall prediction is anywhere near correct, Britain is on the verge of months, or maybe years of political uncertainty. It would take three parties to form a coalition, and I doubt whether many of us can see that happening. A safer bet would be that no one could form a sustainable government and we could be in for a second election in the autumn which none but the main two parties could afford – and even Labour would find it difficult to raise the necessary money in such a short time. In the meantime the markets will get the jitters and the fragile economic recovery could well be threatened.
Welcome to five party politics. It’s not going to be an easy ride.
This article first appeared in The Independent on Sunday
UPDATE: To see the complete list of constituency predictions click HERE