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Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 18:10 GMT 19:10 UK
Beat the Rat: Week Three

BBC News Online is tracking the election result predictions of a selection of noted political commentators throughout the campaign.

But we are also putting them to the test with an added random factor: Crookshanks the rat.

Keep track to see if, after polling day, any of the pundits have managed to beat the rat.

Crookshanks the rat

Election result: Labour majority of 181 to 200 seats
Week Two forecast: Labour majority of 41-60 seats.
Week One forecast: Labour majority of 181 to 200.

Ten-year-old Rose Rowson, Crookshanks's keeper, reports: "Crookshanks's prediction was chosen after some hesitation and sniffing about, and she did not eat the cheese.

"Although Crookshanks may not have been hungry, I think not taking the cheese means something."

Jackie Ashley Political editor, New Statesman

Election result: Labour majority of 180
Week Two forecast: Labour majority of 200.
Week One forecast: Labour majority of 200.

"I now think that Labour's majority will be a bit smaller than I had been predicting. Although the Conservatives seem to be imploding even more quickly than I thought they would, this is only going to increase the 'apathy' problem for Labour.

"The more voters see there is only one possible winner, the less likely they are to stir themselves to go to the polling booths.

"I also wonder whether any women will bother to turn out to vote Labour, since the high command are intent on making this a 'men only' election, with only male ministers allowed to answer questions at the morning press conferences or appear on the television. A big mistake."

Bob Worcester Chairman, Mori

Election result: Labour majority of 180 to 200
Week Two forecast: Labour majority of between 140 and 150.
Week One forecast: Labour majority of 130 to 140.

"Never in 30 years have I seen more women than men saying they're going to vote Labour.

"A week ago I thought the Liberal Democrats would be down to 32 seats, but in the last week I've been sufficiently convinced that I'm wrong.

"I'm now betting they'll be above 46 seats - which was their score at the 1997 election. The Conservatives are collapsing in so many places in so many directions that it must benefit the Lib Dems.

"The Tory campaign has failed to bite on taxation, on asylum seekers, and now it's failing to bite on Europe. Wrong leader, wrong issues."

John Curtice Professor of politics, Strathclyde University

Election prediction: 131
Week Two forecast: Labour majority of 131.
Week One forecast: Labour majority of 105.

"My prediction: Labour 395 seats on 44% of the vote; Conservatives 197 seats on 33%; Lib Dems 38 seats on 17%; and other parties 29 seats on 6%.

"The Conservative campaign has, so far at least, made little impact. The party's policies appear to lack credibility with the voters while William Hague has so failed to persuade voters that he is a potential prime minister. So, there seems no reason to believe the Conservatives will do any better than I thought they would a week ago.

"I am, however, still anticipating that the more conservative poll estimates of Labour's lead are more likely to be closer to the truth and that the largely favourable voter reaction to the Liberal Democrat campaign means that it is still likely that their vote will rise in the coming fortnight."

Graham Sharpe Political odds-setter, William Hill

Election result: Labour majority of up to 160
Week Two forecast: Labour majority of up to 140.
Week One forecast: Labour majority of up to 140.

"This has been the week of the underdogs. I was a good friend of Screaming Lord Sutch and used to sponsor his election campaigns.

"I recently saw his leopardskin election jacket offered at auction and bought it for just under 500. In order to restore the spirit of Lord Sutch to the campaign, I loaned the jacket to current Monster Raving Loony leader Alan Hope for the launch of his bid to win a seat in Aldershot.

"I also sponsored model girl Jordan who is standing in Stretford, Manchester - and for whom we are quoting odds of 3/1 to poll 1,000 or more votes; 12/1 to keep her deposit; 16/1 to beat the Lib Dem candidate and 1000/1 to win the seat - we're taking more for her than we are for Sir Malcolm Rifkind to win in Edinburgh.

"Labour are now hotter favourites than ever at 1/50 to be the largest party at Westminster, with Tories at 12/1and Lib Dems 300/1."

Crookshanks makes her weekly prediction by being given a range of possible results to choose from.

The range is calculated from the previous week's opinion polls, which are used to project the best result for the Conservatives at one end of the scale and the best result for Labour at the other.

The range of possible predictions is then laid out before Crookshanks. Whichever she settles on first is taken as her choice for the week.


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