This is my first seat forecast from the Eastern region and I have chosen the seat of North Norfolk for two reasons. First it is one of only 8 seats held by the Lib Dems in 2015 and one of 3 Lib Dem-Leave seats. Second, it is one of 23 seats in Britain this election that will be fought between only 3 candidates from the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats. Both UKIP and the Greens have decided not to stand in this seat and this will be a good seat to examine my model for handling the votes of parties that stand down.
My Prediction – CON GAIN but extremely marginal
My first seat forecast was for the CON/LD battleground of Bath in the South West and in that post I describe my 3 forecasting models in some depth so please read that post if you are unfamiliar with these. However, now that we know the number of candidates in each constituency, I have created an additional model to handle stand downs by parties so there are now 4 predictions:
- URS – Uniform Regional Swing model based on chart R1 of my Opinion Poll Tracker. This will no longer be my main forecast
- URS + Standown – my URS forecast modified for parties standing down, which will be explained in this post. This is now my main forecast model.
- URS + Tactical – my URS forecast + Standown plus my tactical voting model and is now my alternative forecasting model.
- EU16 Realign – my Brexit Realignment model based on my by-election forecasting model but with some tweaks. For now, I am not regarding this as a forecast, rather it is a sense check for my other forecasts. Please note I have not displayed the breakdown by the 5 EU16 voter segments in the table below as I have done before.
North Norfolk was a strong (62%) Leave seat in 2016 and with only an 8% majority over the Conservatives in 2015, it will be a tough fight for the Lib Dems to hold onto this seat. The key to what happens in 2017 will be the 17% who voted UKIP and the 3% who voted Green in 2015.
One piece of good news for the Lib Dems is that the polls are showing that their vote is up 4% from 2015 in the Eastern region as shown in chart R2. This is the same information as displayed for the East in chart R1 of my Opinion Poll Tracker. Chart R3 is the rolling 15 poll median for the Eastern crossbreaks of all the polls.
Until now, I have used these figures to generate my URS prediction. As can be seen in the table, the Lib Dems hold onto the seat with a reduced majority of 5% as shown by the URS line. This also shows that had the Greens and UKIP been standing, we would have expected vote shares of 2% and 8% respectively, but they are not standing so where will those votes go?
One response might be not to vote. At the moment, I have no information that this is what they will do and so my assumption for now is that they will vote. Given a choice of 3 parties CON, LAB & LD which ones will they choose? My answer is shown in the table below which differs between England, Scotland & Wales.
Before I explain how I arrived at that table, let me list two assumptions I have made.
- My Standown model only applies to UKIP, Green & Other voters since the other parties are not standing down any candidates (apart from 2 Lib Dems).
- Votes from parties can only be redistributed to either Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Plaid Cymru and SNP.
Let’s start with the UKIP reallocations. You can see I have assumed they will split 70:30 between the Conservatives & Labour with none going to the Lib Dems since they are the polar opposite to UKIP on the Brexit scale. Chart S2 of my Opinion Poll Tracker shows that up to now, UKIP deserters have overwhelmingly favoured the Conservatives over Labour when defecting by a ratio of 6 to 1. Given that these people have already defected (and are accounted by my URS forecast) what is left has to be regarded as the true believers or hard core of UKIP. How will they split? I am not certain that the remainder will split to the Conservatives in the same degree and one thing I keep seeing in chart R3 above in a few regions is evidence that the most recent defections from UKIP appear to have gone mostly to Labour rather than the Conservatives. For now, I have chosen this 70:30 split but I will keep it under review.
The Green reallocation is trickier to handle since not every pollster has displayed a breakdown of vote switching from GRN15 voters. So far, I have found only 3 pollsters who have done so (Lord Ashcroft, Opinium, Panelbase) and each show quite different breakdowns. On average though they show most Green voters switching to Labour as shown by the figures for England.
For Wales and Scotland, I have no data to justify what I have shown for the Nationalists. However, given that in Wales, Plaid Cymru might be regarded as part of the “progressive alliance”, I thought it was reasonable to reallocate some of the Labour votes to Plaid. In Scotland, the Greens are in favour of Scottish independence and so I decided that 45% (representing Yes voters) will switch to the SNP. In practice, the Greens did not have many candidates in Scotland in 2015 so there are very few seats where this standown model will be applied.
In the case of North Norfolk, you can see from the earlier table that my URS + Standown prediction is for a Conservative Gain but with a tiny majority. In practice, all my standown model has done is change this seat from a small LD majority to an extreme CON/LD marginal. At this point, we have to consider whether tactical voting by Labour voters will take place. My tactical voting model now uses my URS + Standown prediction as the baseline from which available tactical votes are calculated. In North Norfolk, it is clear that only a small amount of tactical voting involving Labour to Lib Dem switchers is needed to turn this back into a Lib Dem Hold.
One wrinkle to be aware of though is that this seat is a strong Leave seat and Labour voters are split almost 50:50 between Remainers and Leavers. This Brexit dynamic could yet come into play here with the result that Labour Remainers voting tactically for the Lib Dems could be cancelled out by Labour Leavers voting for the Conservatives. This is not something I allow for in my tactical voting model at present and this should be borne in mind when assessing my tactical voting prediction.
If you would like to see my predicted outcomes for all 632 seats in Britain, please visit my 2017 General Election Forecast page and download the spreadsheet at the bottom of the page.