Prime Minister Theresa May could lose control of parliament in Britain's June 8 election, according to a projection by polling company YouGov, raising the prospect of political turmoil just as formal Brexit talks begin.
The YouGov model suggested May would lose 20 seats and her 17-seat working majority in the 650-seat British parliament, though other models show May winning a big majority of as much as 142 seats and a Kantar poll showed her lead widening.
If the YouGov model turns out to be accurate, May would be well short of the 326 seats needed to form a government tasked with the complicated talks, due to start shortly after the election, on Britain's divorce from the European Union.
A later poll, a separate regular survey carried out by YouGov for Thursday's Times newspaper, showed May's Conservative Party just three percentage points ahead of the Labour opposition, which has been eating into her lead since the start of the campaign.
The Conservatives were on 42%, down a point from last week, with Labour up three points, the YouGov survey said.
A total of eight polls carried out since the May 22 Manchester suicide attack have shown May's lead over the Labour Party narrowing, with some suggesting she might not win the landslide predicted just a month ago.
When asked by a reporter if she would resign if she lost seats, May dodged the question on Wednesday, saying that the only poll that mattered was the election on June 8. Recent opinion polls have shown May's lead has contracted to a range of 5 to 14 percentage points. YouGov's election model was based on voting intention figures which gave May a lead of just 3 percentage points, YouGov said.
YouGov, using a technique called Multilevel Regression and Post-stratification, uses a range of factors including demographics, past elections and voter profiles to build a model which can come up with an estimate of how the vote will be split in individual constituencies.
Michael Ashcroft, a former Conservative Party donor who funds polling, uses the same types of modeling as YouGov but came up with a very different estimate of the election: May winning 396 seats and Corbyn winning 180 seats.
Other projections suggested May would win soundly. The Electoral Calculus website, which predicts the results based on polls and electoral geography, said May would win 371 seats and Labour 205 seats. Betting markets give a more than 80% probability of May winning an overall majority, though they were wrong ahead of the unexpected Brexit result in the June 23 referendum last year.
YouGov acknowledged that its predictions were controversial and allowed for a wide margin of error, adding that the samples in each constituency were small.
Jim Messina, a polling and data adviser for the Conservative Party who worked on Barack Obama's campaign, said the YouGov numbers were stupid and that he had spent the day laughing at them. YouGov allowed for big variations in the outcome of the election, ranging from as high as 345 seats for the Conservatives, 15 more than their current number, to as low as 274, the pollster's chief executive, Stephan Shakespeare, said.