John Curtice warns Sunak that Tory election victory would ‘biggest turnaround in history’

The Tories would need the biggest turnaround in the polls in British general election history to pull off a shock victory, Britain’s two leading pollsters have warned.

Professor Sir John Curtice and Lord Robert Hayward have both noted that a party has never before come from so far behind in the polls to win a general election.

The biggest bounce so far was Labour under Jeremy Corbyn in 2017 which gained 10 points on Theresa May’s Conservatives but still came 55 seats behind in a hung parliament.

Sir John, who is expected to be a regular on people’s TV screens analysing polls during the election, agreed that there is no historic precedent for a party to come from so far behind.

Rishi Sunak is facing a monumental task of historic proportions (PA) (PA Wire)
Rishi Sunak is facing a monumental task of historic proportions (PA) (PA Wire)

Currently Labour enjoy a lead of between 18 and 24 points depending on which poll people look at. The Techne UK weekly tracker poll last week had it at 23 points.

Sir John said: “Turnaround in 2017 was 10 points though polls also overestimated the Conservative lead by around another five points.”

But he agreed that if Mr Sunak was to close the gap to get into hung parliament territory it “would dwarf” what happened in 2017.

Lord Hayward, who is a Tory peer, said that the gap is “similar if not worse” to what John Major faced in 1997 when he was defeated by Tony Blair.

Professor Sir John Curtice (Getty Images)
Professor Sir John Curtice (Getty Images)

He said: “That didn’t end well [for the Conservatives]! Although the polls narrowed.”

Mr Blair led Labour to a record 179-seat majority while the Tories had their second-worst result in their 346-year history with just 165 seats. Only 1906 was worse when the party returned with 156 MPs.

Mr Sunak recently told activists and candidates that they can be part “of the greatest comeback in history”.

The expert analysis suggests that if he does manage to even become the largest party or even just force a hung parliament it would rate as one of the greatest comebacks.

Mr Sunak’s calculation was partly based on the polls exaggerating Labour’s lead and the local election results being closer to the truth.

This would put Labour just 8 points ahead and, according to Sky News, would leave Sir Keir Starmer having to deal with a hung parliament 32 short of an overall majority.