I got it wrong. I got it spectacularly wrong. I even went so far as to trumpet how wrong I was in the opening paragraph of my final prediction of the result. I mentioned – not in passing, but bold as brass – that I’d never forecast the Tories to win the most number of seats. Not once. And I went on to mention that I still wasn’t forecasting the Tories to win the most number of seats. I didn’t even hedge my bets and suggest it could be a tie.
I got it all wrong. I spent the entire year getting it wrong. Why?
Part of the answer is I thought the polls were more of a guide than a snapshot. I didn’t listen to my own advice, repeated many times on this blog, to never try and extrapolate anything from the polls about the election result. I concluded that because so many people were predicting the same sort of thing so many times, there must be something in it. There wasn’t. There was nothing in it.
In particular, I thought Lord Ashcroft’s constituency polls were more of a guide than a snapshot – thereby disregarding the man’s very own catchphrase, and tending to treat his findings not as a reflection of temporary opinion but of permanent intention. His polls in Scotland were mirrored at the ballot box; his polls in England were not, sometimes spectacularly so.
I also got it wrong because my instincts were wrong. I couldn’t believe somewhere like Hendon, with a Tory majority of just 106, would not swing cleanly back to Labour. I live in the seat right next door. I thought sensed what would happen. Worse, I thought I had a conviction about what would happen. I even believed my own seat of Finchley & Golders Green was about to change hands, almost solely from what I had seen and heard of the campaign around me.
All of that was wrong. Something was missing from my calculations. Something that was not evident anecdotally, or in the polls, or arithmetically, or perhaps even rationally. It was the unexpected. I didn’t expect it. And so I got it wrong.