General Election 2019 briefing: YouGov poll predicts big Tory victory - forcing Labour to rethink their strategy

YouGov predict a big Conservative win, Labour claim to have proof that the government is in talks to sell off the NHS, and Boris Johnson suspends a Scottish Tory candidate for racist remarks - all this and more in today’s Election Briefing.

YouGov MRP poll predicts large Tory majority

Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party is on course to win an overall majority of 68, according to projections based on a polling model that accurately predicted the hung parliament result of the 2017 general election.

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Pollsters YouGov predicted the Tories would win 359 MPs, a gain of 42, with Labour on 211, a loss of 51.

The SNP are predicted to win eight more seats, putting them on 43, while the Liberal Democrats are set to stall with a gain of just one MP, putting them on 13.

Two years ago, the same poll accurately predicted that Theresa May’s Tories would fail to win a majority despite being in the lead.

YouGov’s multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP) analysis used data from 100,000 interviews with voters over the past seven days to predict the result in constituencies across Great Britain.

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The findings suggest that the ‘red wall’ of seats in the Midlands and north of England will crumble, with the Tories making gains across traditional Labour heartlands.

The results have prompted Labour to alter their election strategy.

The BBC reports that the party’s own internal polling suggested they over-estimated the threat from the Liberal Democrats, while underestimating Labour-leave voters’ willingness to back Boris Johnson.

But in his column in The New Statesman, Stephen Bush warned that the YouGov MRP poll should be “taken with a pinch of salt”. He argued that while the 2017 YouGov MRP results were treated with “excessive scepticism”, this time around, they might be being lent too much credence.

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Bush emphasised how many hyper-marginal seats are being contested across the UK.

“Underestimating the Labour vote by even one per cent,” he wrote, “would have changed the result in Southampton Itchen, Richmond Park, Stirling, St Ives, Pudsey, Hastings and Rye, Chipping Barnet, Thurrock, Preseli Pembrokeshire, Calder Valley, Norwich North, Broxtowe, Stoke-On-Trent South, Telford and Bolton West, and with it put Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street.

“Overestimating it by even one per cent would likewise have changed the result in eight constituencies and given Theresa May a majority.”

Read Paris Gourtsoyannis’s full story on the YouGov poll results here.

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Corbyn released leaked details of government talks with the US on the NHS

Labour has accused the Conservatives of negotiating a secret trade deal with the US to open up the NHS to American pharmaceutical companies.

At a campaign event yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn said they had obtained uncensored Government documents showing talks were at a "very advanced stage".

While the papers are not conclusive proof of plans to sell off the NHS, they do show that the health service was discussed in the meetings between the UK and US.

Tellingly, the UK delegation admitted after its second meeting that the “key areas” the US was expected to “push” in trade talks included the issue of drug patents and “NHS access to generic drugs (i.e. cheaper drugs)”, adding this would be a “key consideration going forward”.

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Aside from discussions on the NHS, the dossier reveals the US raised concerns over British food hygiene standards, stating that “the US view the introduction of warning labels as harmful rather than as a step to public health”.

Responding to Labour’s claims, the International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, accused Mr Corbyn of “out and out lying”.

Ms Truss added: “The NHS will not be on the table in any future trade deal and the price that the NHS pays for drugs will not be on the table.”

Read the full story in The i.

Scottish Tory candidate suspended for 'anti-Muslim language'

Glasgow Central candidate Flora Scarabello is alleged to have used anti-Muslim language in a recorded telephone conversation, the details of which have not been made public.

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A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “We take allegations like this extremely seriously. There is no place in the Scottish Conservatives for anti-Muslim language, or any other form of racial or religious discrimination.

“As such, we have immediately suspended the candidate and the complaint will be thoroughly investigated.”

The Conservatives have come under pressure amid the ongoing row over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, with the Muslim Council of Britain accusing the Tories of having a “blind spot for this type of racism” and responding with “denial, dismissal and deceit”.

On Tuesday the Prime Minister announced an independent inquiry into “every manner of prejudice” in the Conservative party, and said it would start “before Christmas.”

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Asked if he would apologise for Islamophobia within the Conservative Party, Mr Johnson said: "Of course and for all the hurt and offence that has been caused - of course we do.”

Read the full story in The Scotsman.

Tweet of the Day: BBC faces backlash for failing to secure a date for Andrew Neil’s interview with Boris Johnson

For those asking when Boris Johnson's interview will take place, we're in ongoing discussions with his team but we haven't yet been able to fix a date

— BBC News Press Team (@BBCNewsPR) November 27, 2019

The broadcaster has taken heavy criticism on social media for not agreeing dates with all party leaders in advance of the interviews taking place.

After Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon endured uncomfortable questions from Andrew Neil earlier this week, many people said Johnson would dodge the interview to avoid scrutiny.

Political editor of the New Statesman, Stephen Bush:

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My unpopular opinion: if you haven't confirmed all the candidates to face your setpiece Toughest Interviewer (TM), then you shouldn't schedule the other interviews with your toughest interviewer.

— Stephen Bush (@stephenkb) November 27, 2019

But one user sarcastically suggested a date Boris might agree to:

December 13th I imagine

— Tom Johnson (@hedonhiney) November 27, 2019

Read the full story in The i.

At-a-glance: SNP manifesto policies

The SNP has published its election manifesto following a launch event in Glasgow with Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, yesterday.

Here is a rundown of the party’s main policies:

Independence - An SNP victory in Scotland will be a “clear instruction” for indyref2 to be held on this timescale, and for the next Prime Minister to transfer the powers for a legally-binding vote, it adds.

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Brexit - SNP MPs will work with other parties across Scotland and the UK to “escape from Brexit” by supporting a second EU referendum with Remain on the ballot paper.

If it is the only alternative to a no-deal Brexit, the SNP will also back the revocation of Article 50.

Public Spending - SNP MPs will demand an end to austerity and press the UK Government to invest in public services and the economy, reversing the cuts seen to Scotland's real-terms budget.The party will also call for an end to the two child cap on tax credits and associated “rape clause”, an end to the current benefit sanctions regime and a halt to Universal Credit.

The NHS - SNP MPs will call on the UK Government to match Scottish per capita NHS spending, with the consequent funding boost allowing Holyrood ministers to increase investment in the Scottish NHS to more than £17bn by 2024/25.

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The party will also propose a new NHS Protection Act at Westminster to guarantee that future trade deals will not undermine the founding principles of the NHS or open it to “profit- driven exploitation”.

Climate Change - SNP MPs will demand the UK meets its Paris Climate Agreement responsibilities and sticks to future EU emission standards, regardless of its position within the EU.

The party will propose a Green Energy Deal to give greater certainty for renewable energy schemes, allowing them to attract greater investment.

Devolution - They will also seek greater control over immigration to allow ministers to grow the population and meet its economic needs, as well as opposing the UK's “hostile environment” policy.

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The party will also press for the devolution of employment law so the Scottish Parliament can protect workers’ rights and increase the living wage.

Hot Take: The main parties’ greatest weakness? ‘Candidate research’

“Few things the Conservatives, Labour or Lib Dems could do to each other have been as damaging to their respective campaigns as the social media utterings of some of their own (in many cases now ex-) candidates...

“Embarrassing headlines this year include a Conservative candidate calling migrants the main source of HIV in the UK; a Labour candidate referring to a Jewish Labour politician as Shylock; and a Liberal Democrat candidate pushing anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.”

Read Robin Pettitt’s full take here.