UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
  • There's an interesting contradiction emerging in the data on UK voters prior to the December 12 election:
  • Traditional opinion polls show a lead for the Conservative party and Boris Johnson.
  • But the GfK consumer confidence index implies Johnson could fail to win the majority he needs to get Brexit done.
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Back in 2017, Pantheon Macroeconomics analyst Samuel Tombs predicted that former Prime Minister Theresa May would lose seats in the UK general election that year, based on how gloomy consumers said they were in the GfK consumer confidence poll.

Tombs made his prediction at a time when most political opinion polls were predicting a strong win for May. Ultimately, May lost 13 seats and with it her majority in parliament.

Tombs' interpretation of the GfK measure turned out to be right. And May's loss plunged Britain into the political paralysis from which it has yet to emerge.

Here is what Pantheon's Tombs says the current traditional opinion polls imply about the Conservatives' likely win in December. Johnson can expect a 50-plus seat majority if this data holds:

So far, so good for Johnson and the Conservatives.

Now here is Tombs' most recent chart plotting the history of a sitting government's majority in parliament vs. the current level of consumer confidence.

It shows that confidence has fallen below the level at which a government can expect to add seats in an election. Another hung parliament is predicted:

GfK's most recent survey shows that consumer confidence has fallen another two points, to -14, over October. Tombs believes consumer confidence is lower now than it was in 2017 for May:

If the consumer confidence implication still holds up, then Johnson will not win a majority in parliament in the December 12 election, despite the fact that the opinion polls seem to be saying he will.

When reached by Insider, Tombs hedged his bets:

"My take-away from this is that the Conservatives' poll lead likely will narrow as the campaign progresses, especially in the final two weeks when undecided voters usually make up their minds.

"But with the Tories' poll lead currently at 12pp - far above the 6pp probably needed for a majority - and voters seemingly placing less weight on economic issues generally, for now I think it looks like a toss-up between a Conservative majority and another hung parliament. Still a long way to go!"

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