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John Rentoul

John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.

"The Independent's must-read man" - Daniel Finkelstein

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Hung parliament: Mystic Megs speak

Posted by John Rentoul
  • Tuesday, 30 March 2010 at 09:28 am
It must be right because Prof Phil Cowley says so. He reports, on the University of Nottingham election blog, on a recent academic conference on election forecasting, at which the consensus for a hung parliament was described as "groupthink". Cowley disagrees:

The different papers presented at the conference came from a variety of different institutions, all working separately, using completely different methods and approaches, and drawing on different data. Some used measures of party support, others measures of prime ministerial/leaders approval. One paper forecasted using local council by-elections, another looked at the public’s expectations of the election. They then weighted and filtered these data in different ways.

And yet here’s the thing: despite working independently, almost every single paper forecast a hung parliament, one in which no party had an overall majority. They differed over which party would hold most seats (most papers predicted the Conservatives), but they almost all predicted than no party would have an overall majority. That’s not group think. That’s the sort of consensus that should make even those of us who are sceptical sit up and take notice. Of course, they could all be wrong, and we’ll know that in a month and a bit, but if so, they will be independently wrong.