- Leading pollster John Curtice says May’s failure to win a majority was not surprising. Curtice says Corbyn’s campaign transformed the political landscape. Labour now has a “pretty straightforward” path to power. Next PM will not be Theresa May.
LONDON – Jeremy Corbyn’s prospects of winning the next election and becoming prime minister are “relatively straightforward”, the man who conducted the successful exit poll for the general election, has said.
Curtice, who is professor of politics at Strathclyde University, said that Jeremy Corbyn’s election campaign had transformed the political landscape in the UK, making it now highly possible that Labour would win the next election.
Curtice said he was “not sure why everyone thought it was darned obvious at this point that the Conservatives would achieve a majority,” this month, because “it has got tougher to get a majority let alone a landslide.”
Speaking at an event organised by the Social Market Foundation on Tuesday, Curtice said that Labour had produced “the election campaign which has made more difference to the outcome than any previous post-war British campaign,” and that the “Conservative’s central theme, leadership, failed.”
On Labour, the pollster said “rather than producing the longest suicide note in history, the Labour Party came up with a manifesto that a lot of people said ‘you know actually, that makes a lot of sense’.”
The veteran pollster said that if there was another general election, the Prime Minister would “not [be] Theresa May”.
He added that if the next general election comes “off the back of the collapse of a Conservative government that will probably be relatively straightforward [for Labour to win].
“If it is in different circumstances, whether or not he can win over enough new voters, including frankly winning over some Conservatives is, I think, an interesting question.”
The Conservatives lost 13 seats in the general election, leaving them on 318 seats, while Labour gained 30, meaning they now have 262 seats. The exit poll was out by just eight seats – it predicted 314 for the Tories and 266 for Labour.
In an interview with the Guardian, Curtice said that it is “wonderful, wonderful to prove the rest of the world wrong,” and that this election was “the fourth time in a row we have said things people regarded as incredible.”
The big splits in the election were between young and old and those who voted Remain and Leave, Curtice said. He added that the “Conservative vote in particular became much more clearly a Leave vote.”
Curtice said that “social class becomes less important… than we have seen in the whole of the post war period,” and “age is now the principal demographic division between the Conservatives and Labour.”
Ipsos MORI, the polling company, published data on Tuesday morning showing the divide between young and old voters, the biggest gap the company have ever recorded.
- Twitter – @benatipsosmori
Curtice claims to have done as many election broadcasts as David Dimbleby, and said that he wasn’t flustered by the shock result: “I wasn’t surprised. It was perfectly on the range of possibilities.”
Prime Minister May will be hoping to recover from her poor performance over the past fortnight in order to achieve a good deal with the Democratic Unionist Party and ensure that the Queen’s speech passes a vote in the House of Commons.
On May and the Conservative campaign, he joked “it’s fine to run a presidential campaign if you’ve got someone who looks like a president.”
Curtice said the political map has now changed from being about a working class party versus a middle class party to what he called “a party principally representing social conservatives [the Conservatives] vs a party principally representing social liberals [Labour].”
Curtice says that for Labour, “the days it was a party of the working classes are long since over.”
The Liberal Democrats had a poor campaign, something the veteran psephologist puts down to Tim Farron’s lack of charisma. He added that he would “be surprised” if Vince Cable was not the next Lib Dem leader.