Pundits predict a narrow Labour win

April 1, 2005

Tony Blair will win the 2005 general election with a majority of 70 to 100 MPs, according to three separate academic forecasts of the likely result on polling day, writes Paul Hill.

The forecasts, about to be published in the British Journal of Politics and International Relations , use different methods but reach the same conclusion that Labour will remain in office.

Eric Belanger of McGill University in Montreal, Michael Lewis Beck of the University of Iowa and Richard Nadeau of the University of Montreal predict that Mr Blair's majority is likely to be 100 seats.

They argue that Labour's majority could be as low as 30 seats, using a model that takes account of economic conditions, government popularity and length of time in office.

But once the "closeness" of the election race and the Opposition's relative weakness are taken into account, they argue that a Blair majority of 100 is far more likely.

In separate papers, Paul Whiteley and David Sanders of Essex University both conclude that Blair's 2001 majority will be more than halved to 70 seats.

Professor Whiteley's forecast uses data from the British Election Study's polling and analysis for the relationship between votes and parliamentary seats.

Using recent opinion poll data about perceptions of the state of the economy and ratings of the party leaders, Professor Sanders reveals that Iraq has cost Labour 3 percentage points.

Professor Sanders puts forward a series of possible outcomes for the election depending on how Blair's personal ratings, economic expectations and the situation in Iraq change between now and polling day - from Labour winning 35 per cent to 44 per cent of the vote.

Professor Sanders' own view is that Labour is likely to win 38 per cent of the vote, a 70-seat majority.

Philip Cowley of Nottingham University, editor of the journal, said: "It's interesting how they nearly all forecast a Labour victory, but a more narrow one than before, and how many of the forecasts argue things could be tighter than the opinion polls seems to be predicting."

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