A senior Conservative MP leaks his party’s private polling. No wonder they are ‘panicking’.

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A senior Conservative MP has leaked his party’s private polling to a journalist. ITV‘s Paul Brand reports that the internal polling shows Labour 12 points ahead, leading to “blue panic”:

The huge 12-point difference is much higher than the gap shown by public polls. Recent public polls place Labour around 2 points ahead. But not long ago, many of these polling companies got the general election result wildly wrong:

In the end, the Conservatives won the election by around 2 points. Nearly every polling company was out by more than the standard margin of error of 3%. Prolific pollsters BMG, ICM, and ComRes were notably way off.

Why were the pollsters so far off?

During the 2017 election, the huge variety in polling results was because of the difference in methodology. Polling companies such as ICM and ComRes failed to anticipate voter turnout, particularly among the young. This suppressed the Labour vote because young people are way more likely to support the party.

Now, a very recent poll by ICM places Labour and the Conservatives neck and neck. By contrast, Survation (the most accurate pollster during the election) has Labour 6 points ahead in its latest poll.

Conservative source denies

While Brand says his 12-point figure comes from a “very senior” Conservative MP, another Conservative source has since denied it. The source insists that the party’s private polling is “in-line” with the public polls.

British Polling Council rules

But there may be a way in which the polling result can be confirmed. The British Polling Council has rules for if poll results are leaked (rule 2.6):

The research organisation must place other relevant data on its web site within 2 working days of the original release of the results into the public domain in order to place such information into their proper context.

So if the 12-point figure is entirely accurate, the research organisation should publish relevant tables by 21 November. There are two problems, though. First, the company may not be a member of the British Polling Council. During the 2017 general election, Crosby Textor carried out private polling for the Conservatives. The company, co-created by long-term Conservative election strategist Lynton Crosby, is not a member of the council. Second, it would be difficult to prove the polling company had broken the rules, or even that the poll actually exists. Earlier this year, Labour’s Lord George Foulkes called the industry “self-regulated” with power that is “without responsibility or supervision”.

If accurate, the leaked private polling is brilliant news for people who want an end to the Conservative government. Still, the stakes are too high for Labour supporters to take anything for granted. Whenever the next general election happens, it will have to be all systems go.

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