Editor's note: 1425hrs, 20 April: I've amended this story slightly to explain the poll’s methodology in more detail, and explain why it might be questionable.
Guys, guys, guys: exciting news from the West Midlands mayoral campaign. We have a poll.
This is a bit of a surprise: I’d sort of expected we wouldn’t be getting one of those. I outlined my reasons for that here (on my Facebook page, social media fans!), but a big chunk of my reasoning could be summed up, basically, as: “Who would commission one?”
Well, the answer turns out to be Trinity Mirror, the newspaper group which owns the Birmingham Post, Birmingham Mail and Coventry Telegraph, among other titles. It surveyed 2,500 local voters, by randomly inviting visitors to its websites to answer a questionnaire and then adjusting the results based on geography and previous voting patterns. (How good a polling method this is remains to be seen.)
Anyway: here’s what it found:
- Sion Simon, Labour – 32.8%
- Andy Street, Conservative – 32.3%
- Pete Durnell, UKIP – 15.7%
- Beverley Nielsen, LibDem – 7.5%
- James Burn, Green - 6.7%
- Graham Stevenson, Communist - 5.1%
So: basically a tie between Simon and Street. This is pretty much what the elections expert John Curtice has been going round predicting based on history, national vote shares and so on. It’s close.
Other thoughts: UKIP coming third, with twice the votes of the LibDems, must be a shock to poor Beverley Nielsen. Also, the 5.1 per cent voting for the communist gives one pauses for thought.
But it’s a two round system: in the instantaneous second round, all candidates but the top two will be eliminated and the votes distributed by second preference.
Then it’s not a tie.
- Sion Simon, Labour – 53%
- Andy Street, Conservative – 47%
That’s a clear victory for Simon. In a world in which a 52/48 referendum is seen as an overwhelming mandate, that’s practically a landslide.
Some words of warning on this. Firstly, all polling requires assumptions about who will actually show up to vote. This, though, is likely to be a low-turnout election, and there’s no history to model from. It’s thus difficult to know how accurate this poll actually is, especially since it wasn't conducted by an actual pollster. If people who read Trinity Mirror newspapers have different voting patterns to those who don't, it might be junk.
Secondly, for reasons I outlined earlier, my gut instinct is that the general election campaign will work against Labour and in favour of the Tories. On balance, I think if the next fortnight sees the TV news filling with pictures of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, then that makes a Tory victory more likely.
That said – my gut is often wrong. Perhaps all the noise from national politics will make Midlanders more determined to vote against those wicked Tories.
We shall see. At the moment, though, the polls suggest Sion Simon is 6 points ahead. It’s his to lose.