In the last 24 hours or so polling conducted for The Guardian has shown the “Leave” campaign in the British EU referendum to have jumped into a small lead over the Remain campaign.
This has excited much comment, cheering from the Brexit mob, and even a run on the pound. (Just like the good old days – Ed.)
Before the Little Englanders get too excited, though, they would do well to consider the following:
By far the most accurate “poll” on upcoming elections has been shown – again and again – to be the betting markets. This is because they are made up of people who are not answering questions on the phone or online, but people actually wagering real money – their own money – on their considered analysis of the likely result, assuming the risk for their opinions.
This is not to say that the betting market is always 100% accurate – that would be an over-statement – but it very accurately measures trends. So what is really interesting is always the MOVEMENT in the odds, just as the TRENDS in opinion polls are what are extremely accurate, not any individual poll.
The political betting market in the UK is very large, which also increases its accuracy.
These odds show a small movement towards “Leave”, but nothing like enough to see them winning the vote in three weeks’ time. The general consensus is still in the region of 4-1 (at least) ON a Remain victory, and as wide as 3-1 AGAINST (or higher) on a Leave win.
This small shift towards Leave is also picked up by the FT poll of polls, which shows Remain winning despite the ICM poll. It should also be noted that a cursory glance at the poll of polls show that ICM have consistently rated Leave higher than other polls, suggesting there is something in their methodology that is fractionally favouring the Leave side. Of course if they are proven right they will be cock-a-hoop, and good on them if it proves to be the case, but that rarely happens in such examples.
What really WOULD put the cat among the pigeons would be if the slight drift to Leave was picked up by other polls, or became a growing trend. That is not yet the case.
One thing that is clear is that the Leave campaign is polling far better than Prime Minister David Cameron would be happy with, and it may well be that a sizeable “out” vote will undermine his already eroding position within the Conservative Party.
He was urged by many (including then Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg) not to play around with a referendum to de-fang his Eurosceptic right but loftily chose to ignore that advice. As things stand, it may be that any victory in the election will be close enough that he, personally, is stripped of personal authority and mortally wounded. It may turn out to be a gross miscalculation.
When true leadership was required, he squibbed it. And the penalty for that is always, inexorably, inevitably, political death.