The polls are misleading and I have never believed them since I was a boy. The last election seemed to prove my belief as we saw the 10 o'clock BBC prediction shatter the dreams of the Labour Party for the past five years. Polls, regardless of how they appear, should in my view be treated with a big spoon of sugar. They are and have been proven to be inaccurate or have been portrayed in the press as fact. For example when the Daily Mail or other newspaper has a headline that boldly declares 90% ready to leave the EU, when it turns out that only a small portion of their newspaper readers actually voted.
The polls predicting that Jeremy Corbyn is the least popular Leader of the Opposition is sending a message that has been pumped around the newsrooms of our nations media for sometime: that Corbyn cannot possibly win an election and is leading the party to defeat. I would say that the polls in this case are not accurate when you look at the number of those who voted, compared to the rest of the electorate. In some Parliamentary Seats there will be different factors: incumbency, local popular vote and local government are all factors that should be taken into account.
My message to the Labour Party is to ignore the polls and fight for every vote. There is no such thing as a safe seat and nothing is a done deal: Scotland proved that.
My message may seem like normal commonsense and a waste of a blog, but I have encountered so many times Campaign Organisers who base their planning on what the polls say. I have been in so many campaigns through the years and you would not believe how many times a campaign team would falter, after a single negative poll was published. While I understand the mental impact of a poll, I have had experiences where what the polls tell us do not reflect what we see in the field. I will give you an example from my own past.
During the 2010 General Election, I campaigned for my home Labour Member of Parliament Ben Bradshaw, then the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Exeter had always been a marginal, but thanks to years of hard dedicated work by the local party, Labour had become the quasi-natural holder of the seat. In 2010, the entire country was expecting a massacre at the polls for Labour and the polls apparently reflected that. In Exeter it was expected, even by Ben that he was going to lose the seat to the Tory challenger. There wasn't a day that went by that our campaign team wouldn't reflect on what the polls said, yet it proved ill founded as Ben won the seat. Indeed in 2015 that 2k odd majority in Exeter grew into 7k.
This is just one example of how the polls do not reflect what people vote for at the ballot box. What we did was campaign based on local data we had collected ourselves and by not treating Exeter as a done deal. Every ward was campaigned in and every household fought for. More importantly we ignored what others were telling us and got on with it.
You can get places where you instinctively know what the result is going to be, but often you cannot and everything is to play for. I am a firm believer in local organising and a sound strategy to win elections.
The way I treat them is as if I was a general on the battlefield waging war. The challengers become the enemy and our mission is to destroy their ability to win vote. While not everyone will share my view of polls, I think we need to change our thinking and ignore what is said to us, as the only way we can truly know what people think is by campaigning as hard as we can.
Basic hardworking campaigning can still win and overcome predictions.