Shame or survival in Europe - take your pick

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The Independent Online
The tories retained just five seats in yesterday's election to the European Parliament. Alternatively, they held on to 20. Which is right? It all depends on which pollster you ask.

Labour's private pollsters at NOP put Labour only 12 percentage points ahead of the Tories in the popular vote. In contrast, the Tories' pollsters suspect that their client will come third - trailing Labour by 22 points and the Liberal Democrats by 2.

These wildly varying predictions emerge from a survey designed to compensate for the scarcity of opinion polls during the European election campaign and the pollsters' inability to offer polling-day forecasts based on last-minute surveys.

Instead, executives of the leading polling organisations have given their personal polling day predictions, using what information they have, and adding their judgement about differential turnout and any late swing that may have occurred.

The results are shown in the table. Only Gallup - which stands by its 11-day-old Labour lead of 30 points - declined to make a seats prediction. I have converted Gallup's figures into seats, assuming a uniform national swing throughout Britain since 1992.

If we take an average 'poll of pollsters', we find Labour (47 per cent) enjoys a 20 point lead over the Tories (27), with the Liberal Democrats (22) in third place. Collectively, the pollsters expect Labour to win 64 seats (a gain of 15, after allowing for boundary changes) and the Tories 12 (down 22). The Liberal Democrats are forecast to take six seats to enter the European Parliament for the first time, while the Scottish National Party is expected to double its representation from one to two.

But averages hide wide variations. At NOP (Labour's pollsters) Richard Glendinning says Labour will win only 55 seats, while the Tories retain as many as 20. At Harris (the Tories' pollsters) Robert Waller fears the Tories will hold just eight seats.

At ICM, Nick Sparrow predicts the Liberal Democrats will fail to break out of their three easiest targets in the South-west. He stands by his poll, published in Wednesday's Daily Express - after adjusting his figures to guess the loyalties of interviewees who refused to say how they would vote. His unadjusted figures show Labour 20 points ahead; Mr Sparrow's prediction, however, is that Labour will be only 14 points ahead when the votes are counted.

Robert Worcester of Mori has also adjusted his figures. His poll in yesterday's Times showed Labour 28 points ahead of the Tories. Since fieldwork finished on Monday, he believes that a late swing has helped the Tories; he also judges that some Tory supporters who had intended to abstain will turn out to vote after all. So his final prediction, based on an expected turnout of just under 40 per cent, is that Labour's lead will be reduced to 21 points and that Tory MEPs will just outnumber the Liberal Democrats after all.

------------------------------------------------------------------------ POLL OF POLLSTERS ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Predictions for the European Parliament elections VOTES (%) SEATS C Lab LD Other C Lab LD SNP Peter Duffin GALLUP . . . . . . . . . . 23 53.5 19 4.5 5 76 3 1 Robert Waller HARRIS . . . . . . . . . . 24 46 26 4 8 65 9 2 Nick Sparrow ICM . . . . . . . . . . . .30 44 20 6 20 59 3 2 Robert Worcester MORI . . . . . . . . . . . 27 48 21 4 9 67 7 1 Richard Glendinning NOP . . . . . . . . . . . .30 42 22 6 20 55 7 2 Average . . . . . . . . . .27 47 22 5 12 64 6 2 ------------------------------------------------------------------------ NOTE: Gallup offered no seats forecast. Those figures are based on Gallup's vote-share forecast, assuming a uniform swing throughout Britain since the 1992 election. ------------------------------------------------------------------------

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