It’s general election time again! If you’re registered to vote, and haven’t already done so by post, please get out and vote at your local polling station. I know it’s a dull wet day, but if you don’t vote and the party you like the most (or dislike the least) isn’t elected, you’ll feel bad for the next five years. Or whenever the next general election is.
Your local council should have sent you a polling card; if you have one, it’ll tell you where to go and you should bring it with you if you can. If you don’t have a polling card – don’t worry! You can find out where your local polling station is here, just by entering your postcode. It’ll give you a map and directions. Take some ID with you if you don’t have your polling card just in case. I’d recommend a driving license as it has both your photo and your address on it, or a passport and a utility bill. If you have your polling card, there’s no need to bring any official identification with you.
If you applied for a postal vote but forgot to send it in, again, don’t worry! Contact your local electoral registration office before 5pm today and they’ll hopefully be able to sort you out with a replacement ballot paper.
Remember, you have until 10pm tonight to vote, so you can do it after work if needed.
Who to vote for
I voted Labour (I’m a party member), and, in most cases, I think you should do too. Their manifesto commits them to reversing recent cuts to schools, policing and the NHS, and re-nationalising privatised public services. Both Christine and I work in the public sector and the prospect of another five years of cuts and austerity by the Conservatives is very scary. I’m also worried about various friends of mine with disabilities, who are already struggling.
There are some constituencies where I’d recommend that you don’t vote Labour. If the Liberal Democrats, SNP or Green Party have a realistic chance of winning the seat, then vote for them instead. This rather sweary web site can help you with that – in my parents’ seat, the LibDems have a greater chance of unseating the Conservatives.
If you really can’t bring yourself to vote for any parties, then please spoil your ballot, rather than not vote at all. Spoilt ballots are still counted and contribute to the turnout figures. But I’d still prefer you to just vote Labour anyway.
Who will win
The polls are all over the place, showing anything from a 13% lead by the Conservatives to a 2% lead by Labour. Previous polls for the last election in 2015, and the EU referendum last year, did not accurately predict the final result. I think part of the problem is that the polls are usually a sample of around 1000 people across the country; whereas the ‘general election’ is effectively 650 smaller elections in each constituency. If you poll 1000 people nationally, then you’ll get the opinions of, at most, a handful of people in some constituencies, and none in others. Ideally, you would poll, say, 100 people in each constituency, but that would mean collating 65,000 responses.
My own prediction is for a very narrow Conservative majority. It’s not the result I want, but I think it’s the most likely. But I think that the Conservatives will win fewer seats than last time, leaving them in a worse position than before. I also reckon that at least one government minister will lose his or her seat. This, combined with the fact that the election wasn’t necessary, will lead to Theresa May standing down, and a second Conservative leadership contest in as many years.
Labour have done really well in this election campaign. Two months ago, they were far adrift in the polls – the Conservatives were polling 45-50% and Labour around 25%. Whilst most polls still put Labour behind, they have closed the gap on the back of a strong, positive campaign that shows that there is a real alternative to the Conservatives. Jeremy Corbyn has changed too; he’s a smarter, more statesman-like leader and, in my view, has demonstrated that he can run the country. I have had my doubts about him in the past, but I feel like he could make a good prime minister.
This is an election that nobody expected Labour to win. That meant that Labour had nothing to lose.
The exit poll
So, taking into account everything that I’ve said above, our first indication of what will probably happen is the exit poll. The poll has been jointly commissioned by the BBC, Sky and ITV, and polling will be carried out by Ipsos MORI. The plan is to ask 20,000 people in 100 selected seats – this will include key marginals, but also some safe seats. Clearly the larger sample size should give us a more accurate result, and indeed the 2015 exit poll was far closer to the actual result than any of the polls preceding it. It wasn’t bang on – it still predicted a hung parliament with the Conservatives as the largest party, rather than a Conservative majority – but it was the best indication yet of the final result. And it only polls those that have actually voted, rather than those who say that they will probably vote.
The exit poll result will be announced once the polls close at 10pm.
Staying up to watch the results
I’m not staying up to watch the results – I’m at work tomorrow and I need my sleep. I may stay up for the exit poll result, but will go to bed straight afterwards and put my phone on airplane mode until the morning. I’ve previously woken up in the early hours of the morning, to see news alerts that have stopped me from getting back to sleep. This makes the following day even more of a struggle, especially when it’s bad news.
If you are going to stay up, here’s a guide from Buzzfeed. My advice would be to stay up for the first result from Houghton and Sunderland South, and then take a nap until 2am when it starts getting interesting. Sunderland is a safe Labour seat, so unless there’s a major change (i.e. Labour lose it, or there’s a big change in their share of the vote), it’s unlikely to mean anything for the other 649 constituency elections. Sunderland almost always declares first, by throwing a huge amount of resources at the count.
The Press Association have a list of expected declaration times, if you want to find out when each constituency will declare its results; Halifax, where I live, isn’t expected until 5am tomorrow morning.
What happens next
FiveThirtyEight has listed three scenarios for the result tomorrow. Essentially these are:
- Conservatives win a bigger majority (what Theresa May called the election to get)
- Conservatives win a similar majority to now (what I think will happen)
- A hung parliament
With the polls as they are, any of these could happen, although betting markets suggest that the third option is unlikely. Unlike in 2010, when a hung parliament lead to a coalition government of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, a simple coalition wouldn’t be so easy to form this time around. Again, based on the polls (which may be inaccurate), the Conservatives would still be the biggest party, and would only be able to get a majority if in coalition with either Labour or the SNP, which is highly unlikely. The progressive parties – Labour, Liberal Democrats, SNP and the Greens – probably can’t form a majority coalition, unless the polls are way out.
The current administration may continue as a minority government if it fails to achieve a majority, but, historically, such administrations haven’t lasted long. So, if there’s a hung parliament, we could end up back at the polls again in a few months. What fun!
I think, fundamentally, nobody really knows what will happen tomorrow. But the best thing you can do is make sure your vote is cast, and have your say in the result.