The intense political activity of the past two weeks is certainly helping to engage voters, but there is little evidence yet that it is changing minds. Although a couple of polls have shown Labour or the Conservatives with a decisive lead - and been widely shared by each party's supporters - this picture has not been backed by the majority of polling, suggesting they are outliers (or at the very edge of sampling error). Our Polling Observatory estimates, bringing together all the available polling data, indicate virtually no change in the balance of power between the "big two" in the first fortnight of April. Our vote forecast therefore continues to point to a narrow Conservative vote lead in an election which remains too close to call. We forecast the Conservatives to win 33.6% of the vote, down 0.4 points on the 1st of April, and back to the level forecast in early March. Labour are forecast to be 1.1 points behind on 32.5%, down 0.5 points since April 1st. The modest recovery in Liberal Democrat fortunes continued in the first half of the month - we now project them to win 10.3% of the vote, up 0.4% on April 1st.

The stability in the polling is also reflected in our latest seat estimates. The Conservatives' median estimate falls by 3 seats, Labour's rises by two, and the Liberal Democrats rise by one. This doubles the median Labour seat lead from 5 to 10 seats, but as the figures in brackets indicating the confidence in our estimates reveal, this projected lead is highly uncertain. A lead for either party in seats is quite possible, though a majority for either is at present very unlikely.

Table 1: Seat estimates, with confidence intervals and change on March

Party

March 1st estimate

April 1st estimate

April 15th estimate

Conservative

265

271

268 (-3)

(245, 293)

Labour

285

276

278 (+2)

(256, 300)

Liberal Democrat

24

27

28 (+1)

(23, 34)

UKIP

3

3

3 (n.c.)

(1, 4)

SNP

49

49

49 (n.c.)

(36, 56)

Others

6

6

(4, 8)

n.c.

Northern Ireland

18

18

n/a

The small shifts in projected seat totals have little impact on the coalition arithmetic, as shown in Table 2. The likeliest Conservative-led combinations - with the Liberal Democrats, the DUP and UKIP - still fall well short of the 323 votes needed to be sure of winning a confidence vote (this is lower than the theoretical 325 votes for a majority as Sinn Fein's three MPs do not take their seats). Our projected numbers would not leave the Conservatives with many options for forming a government.

Table 2: Most plausible governing combinations, based on March and April seat forecasts

Party March 1st estimate April 1st estimate April 15th estimate Status
Conservatives + Lib Dems + DUP 298 307 305 18 seats short of effective majority
Conservatives + Lib Dems + DUP + UKIP 301 310 308 15 seats short of effective majority
Labour + SNP 334 325 327 Effective majority of 10
Labour + Lib Dem 309 303 306 17 seats short of effective majority
Labour + SDLP + Plaid Cymru + Green + Lib Dem 316 310 313 10 seats short of effective majority
Labour + Lib Dem + SNP 358 352 355 Effective majority of 66
Labour + SDLP + Plaid Cymru + Green + Lib Dem + SNP 365 359 362 Effective majority of 80

Labour continue to depend on support in some form from the Scottish National Party to form a government - a combination of all natural allies excluding the SNP falls 10 seats short of an effective majority. Even if Labour were to persuade the DUP to join such a rainbow alliance, they still would not be able to pass legislation or carry a confidence vote if the SNP joined the opposition.  As such, our current central projection remains one of a Labour government supported by multiple parties. On our central projection, a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition provided with less formal support by the SNP (such as a "confidence and supply" arrangement) would have 355 seats - exactly equal to the number held by Labour alone after the 2005 election. This nicely illustrates the fragmentation of British politics since that time - the parliamentary power held by one party in 2005 would, on our projections, be shared between three parties in 2015.

 

Robert FordWill JenningsMark Pickup and Christopher Wlezien