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Fact check: Projected result for Lee Anderson comes from ‘user-defined’ data

Lee Anderson MP campaigns for the Reform Party in his constituency of Ashfield, Nottinghamshire (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Lee Anderson MP campaigns for the Reform Party in his constituency of Ashfield, Nottinghamshire (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Reform UK candidate Lee Anderson posted a screenshot on X, formerly Twitter, on June 14 taken from the website Electoral Calculus showing what appeared to be a predicted win in the Ashfield constituency where he is standing in the General Election. “Hmmmm. That is interesting,” Mr Anderson wrote underneath the image, adding a red love heart emoji.

Evaluation

As can be seen at the top of the screenshot, Mr Anderson has shared a “user-defined poll” prediction – a feature of the Electoral Calculus website that allows anyone to input any percentage of support for the main five parties they choose to generate a picture of how those numbers might translate into election results for whole areas of the UK or individual seats.

Mr Anderson appears to have used national YouGov polling data to project a Reform win in Ashfield. Electoral Calculus provides its own projection for the constituency which, on the day Mr Anderson posted his screenshot, instead predicted a Labour victory.

The facts

The Electoral Calculus tool that creates user-defined polls can project seats based on any numbers provided, from plausible scenarios based on current polling data to more unlikely outcomes.

Electoral Calculus warns on its website that user-defined projections should not be used in campaigning materials by political parties. It stipulates that local parties can only republish results from its Overview data. These figures show Electoral Calculus’s own projections, which the company says should always be given with attribution and include the date the data was observed.

On June 14, Electoral Calculus predicted Labour winning Ashfield, although the margin was narrow enough that both Labour and Reform were noted to have a 39% “chance of winning”.

To achieve a user-generated polling result that came close to matching the predicted Reform victory shared by Mr Anderson on X, the PA news agency used the data from YouGov polling on June 14 that put his party one percentage point ahead of the Conservatives across the UK. Inputting these figures as a national vote share – Labour on 37%; Reform on 19%; Conservatives on 18%; Liberal Democrats  on 14%; and the Greens on 7% – returned a predicted Reform victory in Ashfield very similar to that shared by Mr Anderson.

YouGov has not undertaken any Ashfield-specific polling during the General Election campaign yet.

Who is Lee Anderson?

Labour lost Ashfield in the 2019 general election when Mr Anderson stood successfully for the Conservatives. He had been a Labour councillor in the area before defecting to the Tories in 2018.

In February 2024, the Conservatives suspended Mr Anderson, their former deputy chairman, over a statement he made about the Labour mayor of London. Known as “losing the whip” the punishment meant he became an Independent MP for Ashfield without party affiliation.

In March, Mr Anderson joined Reform UK, becoming the party’s only MP.

What does the Electoral Commission say?

Polling data can become a contentious issue during election campaigns, but the Electoral Commission –  the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK – told PA: “The content and style of campaign material is not regulated by any UK body, other than a number of electoral offences associated with making false statements about the character of another candidate.”

Links

Original post on X by @LeeAndersonMP_ (archived)

Electoral Calculus: User-defined prediction for Ashfield [using YouGov data] (archived)

Electoral Calculus: Frequently asked questions (archived)

Electoral Calculus: Current Ashfield projection (archived)

YouGov poll putting Reform 1pt ahead of the Tories (archived)

Lee Anderson personal profile (archived page only)

Lee Anderson X post after losing Tory whip (archive)

UK Parliament: Parliamentary career for Lee Anderson (archived)

The Electoral Commission (archived)

Electoral Commission table of offences (archived)

Election Check 24