We will then drive down to Mr Sandhurst's fortified compound in Oxfordshire where a 24-pack of beers (12 of which are mild) awaits us. And then it's my propensity for alcohol vs. the election's propensity for interest.
Polls in general this evening showed a slight uptick in the Tory lead with Tories now in the region of 35%-37%. Don't forget though that the large proportion of postal votes means that the polls are a moving window rather than something which closes in on a more and more accurate result. While the 2005 exit poll achieved the miraculous feat of forecasting the size of the Labour majority EXACTLY, I think that was a fluke - no particular reason to expect them to be that accurate in general, given that many of the voters aren't actually turning up to the polling station on polling day itself.
For my own part, I continue to enjoy the ritual of voting on the day itself where possible. Also, it allows changing one's mind right up to being in the polling booth (maybe not such a good thing, but I like that freedom).
My original election projection of 37% Tory, 34% Labour, with LDs on small change has been blown wide open by the Lib Dem upsurge. I think I will go with the YouGov poll from this morning (not the one which came out this evening with Labour vote falling again) - I'm now thinking maybe 35% Tory, 30% Labour, Lib Dems maybe 26% or so. Not sure if that'll be enough to keep Labour as the largest single party or not. Some factors to consider:
- If that LibDem 26% is a very well-organised tactical vote it'll hit both main parties hard. A lot of the surveys of marginal seats by papers like the Telegraph have looked only at Lab-Con marginals, where the Tories are gonna make some big gains for sure. But they've then projected Tory total seat numbers completely ignoring Tory-Lib Dem marginals, where the Tories could take substantial losses if there is strong tactical voting by Labour voters combined with the overall Lib Dem bounce. I think the Lib Dems will be in the region of 100 seats even though their overall vote share will not be as high as they were hoping for when the Clegg bubble kicked in.
- How much is the Ashcroft money really going to help the Tories in the marginals? Reports have been conflicting here, with some surveys suggesting a slight Tory uplift compared to the national swing, and others saying it's made pretty much no difference.
- How much leakage from the Tories to UKIP, in particular? This had some negative impact on them in 2005 and I think we'll see a lot more of that this time. The format most pollsters use for the "who are you going to vote for" question gives you the choices "Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem, Other" and then a second stage if you choose "Other" where you get Green, UKIP, BNP etc. That's not the way it is on the ballot paper and I think the pollsters have been undercounting support for ALL the minor parties.
- The regional distribution of the decline in the Labour vote. If Labour largely collapses in regions where it has few seats anyway - e.g. the South East outside London, and the South West - it will probably result in a lot of big Tory majorities becoming super-big but very few seats changing hands. Conversely, a big swing against Labour in the Midlands or the North could be pretty terminal.
A gut feeling (never something to be relied on in my experience, to be sure) tells me we may be about to pull a prime weirdie out of the bag tomorrow. With the polling all over the place, frankly, and seat assumptions mostly based on uniform swing assumptions that are a pile of doo-doo, who the hell has any idea what the count is likely to be? Apparently online betting agencies are offering 12-1 odds on Labour to be the largest single party. I'm not a betting person but if I was I'd certainly take that - sounds like a good outside bet to me. On the other hand we could easily be sitting here in 48 hours' time with DaveCam on a majority of 50 or so. It certainly can't fail to be interesting.
The format for election night itself will feature a mix of blog and twitter posts. My experience of 2005 was that it all got pretty f***ing crazy from about 2am onwards - in fact I may review my 2005 Voice of the Turtle blog posts tomorrow just to remind myself what the timeline was.
One other thing - the posts tomorrow will, mercifully, be much shorter. Some of these bloody things have been going on and on and it's just got to stop. Well, stop sooner, at least.