Oh dear, it’s all starting to get very silly indeed.
First of all, there is this “independent” poll put out by Team Huhne, which indicates a huge surge for Huhne in the last few days. I emailed them to ask the identity of these pollsters, only to be asked to ring Anna Werrin (Huhne’s campaign manager). If you can’t tell me who they are by email, I can’t blog it. It all sounds a bit whiffy to me.
Then there is Team Clegg, assuring us that they’ve canvassed 11,000 and that the 8,000 who have expressed a preference have come out 60-40 for Clegg. Hmmm… that’s a lot of “antis”, most of whom you can probably put down as Huhne supporters. Put that raw data through anything resembling the Richmond formula (they aren’t telling to what extent this canvass data is breaking down into “hard” and “soft” support, unsurprisingly) and I think you’ll find it ends up much closer. Come on lads, we’ve all done canvassing 101 haven’t we?
Speaking personally, my instincts tell me that Clegg will win, but that it will be close. Anecdotally, Huhne seems to be going down much better with older members and there are a lot of those. The YouGov poll is particularly dubious because although Peter Kellner has been keen to point out that it has been weighted according to age, it doesn’t appear to take into account the likelihood that those who aren’t following this election online (i.e. people who don’t vote in YouGov polls) are likely to be experiencing a very different election compared with those of us – of whatever age – who are.
On the other hand, there is the donkey vote factor, the same factor that saw MEPs getting reselected with 70-90% of the vote last month. Faced with that big long list of the great and good that Clegg has behind him, I find it hard to believe a lot of armchair members won’t unthinkingly vote for him regardless of anything else. The only reason I don’t think that will be as big a factor as it could be is that Team Clegg appear to consider pushing out paper to be beneath them, while Team Huhne have been putting much more out.
So I think Huhne will improve on his 42% last time, but not quite well enough. Either way, the victor had better recognise that they have a lot to prove to pretty much half of the party. It won’t be much of a mandate, so don’t expect an easy ride folks!