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Are we heading for a photo-finish as voters hold their noses on election day?

PUBLISHED: 05:30 05 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:16 05 December 2019

There was a good turnout at the Archant hustings at the University of Suffolk. It remaing a tight contest in Ipswich.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

There was a good turnout at the Archant hustings at the University of Suffolk. It remaing a tight contest in Ipswich. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

When Yougov published the results of its “mega” MRP poll last week showing that the Conservatives were on course to win a 68-seat majority in the 2019 General Election, I found their findings credible.

There might be a range of candidates in Ipswich, but in effect it is a straight contest between Conservative Tom Hunt and Labour's Sandy Martin.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNThere might be a range of candidates in Ipswich, but in effect it is a straight contest between Conservative Tom Hunt and Labour's Sandy Martin. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

They had interviewed people across the country and had used complex polling techniques to predict who would win every seat in England, Scotland and Wales.

Judging from reports that I had heard from the front line here in Ipswich and, albeit second hand, from people who are covering the election elsewhere in the country this was more or less in line with what I'd been hearing.

But I'm starting to wonder if we are just seeing the start of the phenomenon that saw ultimate victory snatched away from Theresa May two and a bit years ago - a phenomenon that could still deny Boris Johnson an overall majority and give power back to individual MPs.

Right from the start of the campaign, it has been clear that both the leaders of two main parties - and the only two people with a realistic chance of moving into Downing Street - have far more people that loathe them than love them.

And I don't use the word loathe easily. The emotions stirred Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are much stronger than I have seen stirred by any other politician in my lifetime (with the possible exception of Margaret Thatcher at the height of the miners' strike).

Put bluntly there are far more people going to the polls a week from today to vote against someone than to vote for them.

I know some people worship the ground they walk on, but both party leaders have more people who dislike them than like them.

Until now, however, there has been a subtle difference between them in the eyes of the public, which has to some extent been reflected in opinion polls.

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It seemed as if people were prepared to hold their nose and vote for Mr Johnson because of their fears of Mr Corbyn - but far fewer were prepared to do the opposite and were looking for someone else to vote for (ie the Liberal Democrats).

Now we're getting to the business end of the campaign people's views are becoming more focussed - and they are starting to realise that there are only two people who can end up in Downing Street and I'm starting to hear increasing fears that they don't trust Mr Johnson to have ultimate power that a thumping majority could give him.

Frankly there are unpleasant skeletons in the past of both men - the fact that Mr Corbyn was talking to Sinn Fein at a time when the IRA was carrying out atrocities in the 1980s is balanced by some of the things Mr Johnson has written in newspaper columns from the 1990s until a few months ago which frankly looked as if they were calculated to offend.

Now, though, the polls suggest that voters may be prepared to hold their noses to vote for either man. Labour has nudged up in the polls while the Conservatives have remained static.

That suggests that some people who were considering voting Liberal Democrat are now prepared, albeit reluctantly, to vote Labour - especially if their local candidate isn't seen as being a strong Corbynista.

That could benefit Sandy Martin in Ipswich. The Yougov poll put him four points behind Conservative challenger Tom Hunt and I've started to detect some movement from the LibDems to Labour, just like we saw in the last days of the 2017 campaign.

I suspect if voters really thought there was a chance of Mr Corbyn getting a thumping majority himself they'd be more reluctant to switch, but the collapse of Labour in Scotland effectively rules out that possibility.

The LibDems might still have a "good" election in their terms - it does look as if they are on course to win some target seats in the south east, pushing up their numbers and could claim one or two prime scalps like the seats of Dominic Rabb and John Redwood.

If I did make regular trips to the bookies, I think I'd still place my money on a Conservative majority next week. But I'm not sure it will be as great as some people expect. And Ipswich is a seat that is still very much in play and where there is still a great deal of interest. We saw that in this week's hustings at the University of Suffolk.

Of course all this speculation about tactically voting and what is going to happen has absolutely no real impact on the voters in most of the area - across every other seat in Suffolk and Essex the Conservatives are really sitting pretty and people can vote for whoever they like knowing their ballot paper will have little impact on the final result!


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