Hold your bets: polls are wrong again after Boris makes a Brexit from the leadership contest

If the nation was swept by a fear of uncertainty after Britain’s decision to exit the European Union, it is nothing compared to today’s sinking feeling as the face of the ‘Leave’ campaign Boris Johnson abandons ship. What is more, the bookies have once again got it so wrong which further highlights the unnerving and unpredictable political climate we have sailed in to. So why are the polls getting it so wrong? And what does Boris’ decision to rule himself out of the race for Prime Minister mean for the Brexit argument?

The results of the referendum suggest that Boris Johnson managed to persuade those still sitting on the fence and non-voters through his charismatic TV debate performances and nuanced speeches. However, following the tragic death of Labour MP Jo Cox and after UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s distasteful use of a poster showing refugees, it seemed Remain would clear it. Even UKIP leader Nigel Farage conceded that it ‘looks like Remain will edge it’.

Some polls rightly predicted it being a close call, Leave winning by four percentage points. But, overall, polls were wrong in predicting Remain would win and we saw some late predictions from major pollsters that Britain would choose to Remain by some eight per cent.

It can be argued that this was not as horrendous as predictions made in the 2015 General Election which saw pollsters fail to get anywhere close to the right results.

But you should hold your bets and put a little less faith in polling predictions because the bookies gave Remain a 96 per cent change of winning the vote, and only yesterday had predicted Boris Johnson as the favourite to take Prime Minister David Cameron’s seat in Downing Street.

According to City AM, Boris Johnson had overtaken the bookies’ favourite Theresa May yesterday, only for us to see today that he has completely ruled himself out of the leadership race for Prime Minister.

So why were the pollsters and bookies so wrong?

  1. Turnout was the highest since 1977, with 72 percent turning up to vote.
  2. Online polls and phone calls reached different demographics and there was a significant gap between those conducted by phone and those conducted by internet.
  3. People are afraid to share their political stances, with some afraid they would seem xenophobic for admitting they were voting Leave and seeming unpatriotic if they voted to Remain.

What about Boris?

As the face of the Leave campaign and a clear contender for Prime Minister, it is clear to see how the bookies got it so wrong. He has bowed out of the race; but not so gracefully.

Since winning the gruelling campaign to leave the EU, he has stated Britain will ‘always be part of the EU’ and that the UK is not ‘turning its back’ on Europe.

Some could see that as a tactical attempt to win back Remain voters, and to extend a friendly hand to shake when devising new demands in Europe.

However, even with such tactics, Boris had a tough time in Brussels with his own words regurgitated to him ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it’.  So while he may have had a huge impact on the way the nation voted, his pipedream of winning over Brussels and standing as Prime Minister were diminished the moment Mr Cameron stepped down.

What it highlights the most is that the Leave campaign never really had a plan and even their positions were not secure in a world where the UK is no longer part of Europe.

If the people who argued Britain will take back sovereignty are becoming powerless, with their pipedream positions in disarray, where does that leave the people of the country – you and me?

Well, it leaves us with the following contenders for leadership:

Home Secretary Theresa May

  • Wanted the UK to remain in the EU but is now committed to Brexit
  • Voted against allowing 3000 Syrian refugees into the country
  • Wants to scrap the Human Rights Act

Justice Secretary Michael Gove

Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb

  • He was for Britain leaving the EU
  • He voted against same-sex marriage

Energy and Climate Change Minister Andrea Leadsom

  • She was strongly in favour of leaving EU and is a big believer in scrapping free movement and is keen to do free trade negotiations with the rest of the world.
  • She has also argued strongly against the HS2 rail project
  • She was also one of five Tories to abstain from voting in the Government’s Gay Marriage Bill in 2013.

The former Defence Secretary Liam Fox

  • He was strongly for Britain leaving the EU
  • He was a doctor before becoming a cabinet minister so has experience outside of Westminster

While the front-runner and face of Leave was the strongest contender to win Prime-Ministerial position, we will have to stop believing predictions made in an unstable climate and start logically working on who we want to see in power and, more importantly, what happens when they come into power.

Now that democracy has spoken, we must hold our new leader to account. We must recognise the weeds where career-politicians see a flower. And we must start steering the ship back to safe shores, navigated by us the people, to make Britain a place of pride again. 

WATCH: Boris Johnson rules himself out of the leadership race: