A second poll now puts the Lib Dems ahead of the Tories. YouGov for the Sun newspaper has the Lib Dems at 33 percent, the Tories at 32 percent, and Labour sinking to 26 percent. This is getting really interesting.
Until now the Lib Dem surge has been good — well, goodish — for Labour, because its main effect would be to deprive the Tories of seats and thus of an overall majority. But if the Lib Dems start taking votes from Labour in large numbers — and in this poll, the Labour vote fell by four percentage points since last time — then widely different outcomes are possible.
Just how various? Well, if the YouGov figures really predict the votes cast on May 6, then the Tories would be the largest party but fall about 75 seats short of a majority. But change the voting percentages very slightly — say, to Conservative Home’s poll of polls, which currently gives Labour 28 percent — and it is Labour that is just short of a majority, by 54 seats.
When the three parties are so closely aligned, very small changes in voting percentages can lead to very large changes in parliamentary seat totals. Unfortunately for the Lib Dems, they have to score very high totals in votes to win a majority; unfortunately for the Tories, they have to score much higher (about eight percentage points) than Labour to win a majority; and fortunately for Labour, they can win a massive overall majority with only 36 percent of the national votes, as indeed Tony Blair did in 2005.
– John O’Sullivan is an editor-at-large of National Review.