Polling expert Sir John Curtice on Reform and Lib Dem gains

Nigel FarageImage source, Getty Images
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After showing little movement in the first two weeks of the campaign, the opinion polls are now showing some clear shifts.

In seven polls conducted so far this week, support for the Conservatives stands on average at just 20% - that’s four points down on where they were at the beginning of the election campaign.

However, support for Labour has also fallen. They are averaging 41% in this week’s polls, three points down over the course of the campaign.

But, because both parties are down by similar amounts, Labour still enjoy a lead of 20 points or so.

So who has been gaining support?

One party that undoubtedly has done so is Reform UK. On average they are at 16% in this week’s polls – five points up on where they were when the election was called.

True, so far there have been rather more polls this week from companies that have tended to record relatively high figures for Reform, but they are probably at least on 15%.

One poll in particular has caught people’s attention.

A YouGov survey of more than 2,200 adults, external, conducted between 12 and 13 June, puts Reform at one point ahead of the Tories for the first time on 19%.

However, this is just one poll. We have had four others published in the last 24 hours, none of which have had Reform ahead and not even all of which had the party gaining ground.

On average, Reform is still four or five points behind the Conservatives.

But this is still bad news for the Tories.

The only way that Rishi Sunak could hope to even get to base camp in narrowing Labour’s large poll lead was to squeeze the Reform vote, virtually all of which is coming from those who voted Conservative in 2019.

In 2019, Reform’s predecessor, the Brexit Party, did not stand in Conservative-held constituencies, This time, Reform are standing virtually everywhere in England, Scotland and Wales.

This means Reform is likely to take most votes away from the Conservatives in seats that Rishi Sunak’s party is trying to defend.

Rather than the Tories making progress, things are actually going backwards, not least, of course, because of Nigel Farage’s decision to fight this campaign.

The former UKIP and Brexit Party leader previously said he would not stand in the election but on 3 June announced he would be Reform’s candidate in Clacton, as well as take over as the party’s leader.

Almost instantly this resulted in a three-point increase in the party’s poll support, an advance that now seem to be even a little higher.

But Reform is not the only party advancing in the polls.

Now, the Liberal Democrats, with a 12% rating, are also up a couple of points.

This may partly explain why Labour’s support is down.

So the campaign has now made a difference.

And perhaps in focusing their attacks on each other both the Conservatives and Labour have paid too little attention to the potential challenge from the smaller parties.

We will have to wait and see if that now changes.

You can find a full list of candidates for the Clacton constituency here.

John Curtice is Professor of Politics, University of Strathclyde, and Senior Fellow, National Centre for Social Research and ‘The UK in a Changing Europe’. He is also co-host of the Trendy podcast.