Last week, I set a quiz to see if people could identify past elections from the polling figures two and a half years beforehand.
Basically, people couldn’t.
This is helpful, because it means we should take pundits predictions about what will happen next with a large pinch of salt.
Well, unless the pundit is called Andy Cooke.
Anyway, to the results:
Election 1: Governing Party 32, Opposition Party 50, Opposition lead eighteen points.
1970 General Election: The opposition Conservatives regularly scored over 50% in the polls from the beginning of 1968, with regular leads of over 20%. However, by late spring of 1970, Labour appeared to be heading to re-election and the Conservative victory was something of a shock.
Election 2: Governing Party 39, Opposition party 37, Government lead two points
2010 General Election: This Mori poll in December 2007 was not even the last time Gordon Brown had a polling lead over David Cameron (at least when no turnout filter was applied).
Election 3: Governing Party 35, Opposition party 54, Opposition lead nineteen points
1974 General Election: Similar mid-term polling slump for the government to the 1966-1970 parliament (this was about the peak of government unpopularity) but the Tories fought back to a draw (and a plurality of votes cast)
Election 4: Governing Party 46, Opposition Party 40, Government lead six points.
1979 General Election: This was the closest Mori poll but was in fact three years before the 1979 election, when Jim Callaghan was a fresh and popular PM. By October Labour’s support was plummeting and Labour fell 25 points behind in one poll. Yet by late 1978, Labour was again scoring poll leads. It didn’t last.
Election 5: Governing Party 42, Opposition Party 34, Government lead eight points.
1987 General Election: Compare with 1979 – similar polls, very different results! Labour held a poll lead until late 1986, but the Tories finished strongly and won a big majority.
Election 6: Governing Party 32, Opposition Party 43, Opposition lead eleven points.
2015 General Election: This was my trick question. As I said, people thought this poll result predated everything from landslide government re-election to landslide opposition victory.
Election 7: Governing Party 35, Opposition Party 45, Opposition lead ten points.
1983 General Election: Just before the launch of the SDP, Michael Foot held a significant lead over the Tories. He scored ten point leads even after the SDP launched though, getting a 14 point lead in September 1981. Labour’s last poll lead was April 1982.
Election 8: Governing Party 41, Opposition party 51, Opposition lead ten points
1959 General Election: Hugh’s failure, Harold’s success.
Election 9: Governing party 35, Opposition party 40, Opposition lead five points
1964 General Election: In the next parliament, a smaller opposition poll lead 30 months out turned into Labour’s first majority for 13 years. This election was unusual because both parties changed leaders in the two and half years before the Election. First Harold Wilson took Labour to a 20 point poll lead, then Alec Douglas-Home led a Tory recovery in the election campaign.
Election 10: Governing Party 39, Opposition Party 46, Opposition lead seven points.
1992 General Election: There was a small Labour lead at the end of 1990. It then got a lot worse for the Conservatives with Labour reaching 20 point poll leads in the early 1990s. The Tories dumped their Prime Minister, staged a recovery and in a shock, won the election.
Congratulations to Andy Cooke, whose impressive 7/10 meant he was the only person to score over 50% and so wins a copy of “‘The British General election of 2010” – give me your email and I’ll be in touch to send it over!