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Sub-zero cold snap set to hit UK during election week (so could snow affect turnout?)

James Morris
Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
A file image of a polling station in Belfast during the 2017 general election (PA)

A cold snap is due to hit Britain just in time for election day on December 12.

Meteorologists at the Met Office have predicted a wintry spell will arrive during election week, covering the UK in frost and seeing temperatures plunge to sub-zero in some areas.

The long-term forecast also suggests snowfall in Scotland and the Pennines, with the rest of the UK to be hit by blustery winds and freezing fog.

Nicola Maxey told Yahoo News UK: “There is a chance we may see colder weather, with potential for that to develop into Thursday and bring snow.

A file image of joggers in a chilly Finsbury Park, north London, last week. A cold snap is set to hit the UK in time for election day (Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/Sipa USA)

“However, that would likely be confined to the hills and mountains of northern England.”

She assured: “It’s not expected we will see anything that would cause widespread disruption on election day. It will be overnight frost, more than anything else.”

All recent elections have taken place in April, May or June. The last polling day in winter was in February 1974.

Even if the nation was covered in snow, UK law dictates the election cannot be postponed.

Forecasters have said any snow on election week is likely to be confined to the hills and mountains (PA)

Talk of possible snow combined with a drop in temperatures, as well as winter’s reduced daylight hours, has raised concerns that this year’s election could see a lower turnout than the 68.7 per cent in 2017.

But polling guru Prof John Curtice, of the University of Strathclyde, told Yahoo News UK: “There’s no evidence to suggest it [adverse weather] makes any difference.”

Ben Page, CEO of Ipsos MORI, said: “In terms of winter elections, we only really have February 1974 to go on. Then the weather was bad but the turnout [79 per cent] was high, and up on 1970.

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“By contrast, for the Blair 1997 landslide, temperatures rose to the mid-20s, but turnout (71 per cent) was down on 1992.

“Other factors – such as the perceived importance and closeness of the election – are likely to play at least as big a part as the weather, and of course far more people tend to vote by post, where the weather is irrelevant.”

Chris Curtis, political research manager at YouGov, added: “It might be getting extremely cold over the next week or so but it’s unlikely that the weather is going to deter anyone going to the polls who wasn’t already staying at home.

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“Most of the evidence shows that weather actually has quite a small effect on turnout, and factors such as how close the election is perceived to be, and how different the parties’ positions are, normally have more of an impact.”

Additional reporting by PA.

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