Public Affairs: Will Tories win outright?

Election 2010 Half of leading lobbyists see Tories falling short of majority.

Public affairs agency chiefs are split over whether the Conservative Party will win a majority in the general election.

With the election three weeks away, PRWeek asked ten senior lobbyists to predict the largest party and the number of seats won by that party.

Nine of the ten predicted that the Tories would win the most seats - but only five indicated that they expected the party to achieve outright victory on 6 May.

Bell Pottinger Public Affairs chairman Peter Bingle was most optimistic about David Cameron's chances. His prediction of 352 seats for the Tories would translate to around 42 per cent of the vote for the party - and a healthy majority of 54.

The predictions by Bingle, DLA Piper Global Government Relations director Eben Black, Fishburn Hedges associate director Simon Redfern, Hanover MD Charles Lewington and Open Road CEO Graham McMillan would also translate to Tory majorities, according to polling experts.

But other lobbyists indicated that they expected the Tories to fall short of a majority. Insight Public Affairs MD John Lehal's prediction of 322 seats for the Tories would leave the Tories six short of a majority. The predictions by Edelman public affairs MD Alex Bigg, Lexington Communications director Gidon Freeman and Weber Shandwick public affairs chairman Jon McLeod would leave the Tories with even fewer seats, although they would remain the largest party.

Rory O'Neill was the only lobbyist to envisage Labour emerging from the election as the biggest party. The Gardant Communications partner said he was sticking with the prediction he made to PRWeek back in January 2009, when he was the only one of the same ten-strong panel to predict a Labour election victory.

Andrew Hawkins, CEO of pollsters ComRes, said: 'Lobbyists are split almost as much as pollsters over whether the Tories will get a majority. Half think yes, four in ten think no and one diehard reckons Labour will be the largest party.

'If lobbyists are proved correct it means a Conservative lead of between four and 14 per cent on polling day, or a swing to Labour of between three and 8.5 per cent. Any of these are plausible but my money is on a result in the vicinity of the Redfern-Lewington-McMillan estimates.'

Back in 2008, the same ten lobbyists agreed to predict the mayoral election outcome, with seven predicting a victory for Ken Livingstone.

Name Largest party? No of
Peter Bingle Conservatives 352
Chairman, Bell Pottinger Public Affairs
Eben Black Conservatives 350
Director, DLA Piper Global Government Relations
Simon Redfern Conservatives 341
Associate director, Fishburn Hedges
Charles Lewington Conservatives 340
MD, Hanover
Graham McMillan Conservatives 340
CEO, Open Road
John Lehal Conservatives 322
MD, Insight Public Affairs
Alex Bigg Conservatives 320
MD public affairs, Edelman
Gidon Freeman Conservatives 320
Director, Lexington Communications
Jon McLeod Conservatives 311
Chairman, public affairs, Weber Shandwick
Rory O'Neill Labour 282
Partner, Gardant Communications

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