Thursday, June 1, 2017
Will Theresa May Be Re-Elected
May’s U.K. Election Gamble Imperiled
Prime Minister Theresa May’s bet that she could bolster her parliamentary majority ahead of Brexit talks now looks dicey
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May answers questions during a campaign appearance at a manufacturer in Bath, England, on Wednesday.PHOTO: LEON NEAL/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
LONDON—For British Prime Minister Theresa May, what looked like a sure thing is
her lead in the polls is the result of Conservative missteps and a better-than-expected public reception for Labour, analysts say.
The prime minister began her campaign with a focus on leadership, contrasting her experience in government with Mr. Corbyn’s lack of it. But her party’s manifesto, published in the week before a suicide bomber killed 22 in Manchester, was poorly received. The slip was blamed on a complex plan to finance elderly care, a proposal that bombed with graying voters.
Labour’s manifesto was packed with clear policies with broad appeal, especially to those who had voted Labour in the past but hadn’t made up their minds. The party said it would nationalize railways and pay for college tuition and child care.
At campaign stops and on television debates, Mr. Corbyn’s avuncular style contrasted with Mrs. May’s stilted performances and her repetition of her mantra of “strong and stable government.”
Her opponents have seized opportunities to turn Mrs. May’s emphasis on leadership against her. “The first rule of leadership is to show up,” said Caroline Lucas, co-leader of Britain’s Green Party, at a television debate Wednesday night attended by all party leaders except Mrs. May.
YouGov’s poll was accompanied by an analysis projecting the makeup of the next Parliament based on a separate and ongoing survey of as many as 50,000 voters. Its modeling suggested the Conservatives are on course to win 317 seats at the election June 8. That is 13 fewer than the party currently holds and short of the 326 needed to secure a majority in the 650-seat House of Commons.
YouGov cautioned that the projection is a median estimate and the same modeling yielded a range of gains and losses for the Conservatives, from a low of 285 seats to a high of 353.
The election will also be seen as a fresh test for pollsters in Britain, who have been revamping their methods after Mrs. May’s predecessor, David Cameron, defied expectations to win a comfortable victory in 2015. Polls also underestimated the strength of voters’ support for Brexit ahead of last year’s referendum.
A multitude of other surveys published by rival polling firms show a wide variation, with a Panelbase survey Thursday giving the Conservatives an eight-point lead. Analysts say the variation reflects differences in how results are weighed to reflect factors including voter turnout among different groups.
With her poll lead slipping, Mrs. May has tried to wrest the election debate back to Brexit, perceived as her strongest card, and to play down the surveys. At a recent campaign event, she fielded questions from factory workers, a format that contrasted with her more stage-managed appearances before party loyalists and media.
“There’s only one poll that matters and that’s the poll that’s going to take place next Thursday,” Mrs. May said Thursday at a speech deep in Labour territory in northeast England.
Some Conservative candidates say the narrowing in the polls is helping encourage supporters and wavering voters to cast ballots rather than stay home.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a Conservative lawmaker, said that with the prospect of a Labour government negotiating Brexit there has been a shift back to the party and Mrs. May.
“Corbyn and Brexit remain absolutely at the heart of the campaign,” Mr. Rees-Mogg said. “That is why I think the Conservatives will win—Corbyn is ultimately very unpopular and people want a good Brexit negotiation.”
—Jenny Gross in London contributed to this article.