Nate Silver, the acclaimed US statistician who correctly predicted the results in of 99 out of 100 states in the last two presidential elections, believes the Conservatives will win the most seats on May 7 but that there is still “enormous uncertainty” about which parties will form the final government.
Silver, who correctly predicted the Scottish referendum result more than a year earlier, said his model puts the Conservatives on 283 seats, Labour on 270, the SNP on 48, the Liberal Democrats on 24, the DUP on eight, Ukip on one and other parties on 16. By these results no two parties would be able to form a majority without the help of a third.
But Silver said Ed Miliband could form a minority government with the “consent” of the SNP but warned it would be an “incredibly messy outcome”. “If these numbers held steady, you'd have the Tories as the largest party but Labour plus the SNP are more,” he told BBC Panorama.
"Even then they are not a majority. The betting markets seem to think there would be more paths for Miliband in that case, but it's an incredibly messy outcome. There is still enormous uncertainty about who forms a government after 7 May."
Silver's forecasts, which attempt to analyse both the popularity of local MPs and take into account people’s reluctance to disclose their voting preference before polling day, suggested that the SNP would make gains in Scotland. He also suggested Ukip and the Liberal Democrats will suffer under the first past the post system, despite relatively widespread popularity.
Silver became a household name in the US in 2008, after correctly predicting the winner of Obama v John McCain in 49 out of 50 states, as well as the winner of all 35 Senate races. He caused a flurry in Scotland in 2013 when he correctly predicted the outcome last year’s Scottish referendum result saying that the nationalists had "virtually no chance" of winning.
The forecast is likely to embolden Conservatives coming on a day David Cameron attempted to injected some energy into what has been criticised as a lacklustre campaign in wake of strong polling data.
A Lord Ashcroft survey showing them on 36 per cent, six points ahead of Labour on 30 per cent - while the ICM poll for the Guardian gave David Cameron's party a three-point lead on 35 per cent to 32 per cent for Ed Miliband's party. A Populus poll however showed Labour up one point on 36 per cent to the Conservatives' 33 per cent.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies